Ontario Nature Blog

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At long last, an end to the snapping turtle hunt

Snapping turtle; Credit: Jory Mullen

Credit: Jory Mullen

It has been a long time coming. Alongside our members, supporters, member groups and partners, Ontario Nature spent years trying to convince the Government of Ontario to end the hunting of snapping turtles, a species at risk. And finally, on Friday March 31, the government announced its decision to terminate the hunt. This was the only correct decision in light of irrefutable scientific evidence that snapping turtles cannot be sustainably hunted. Taking just one or two adults from a population on a yearly basis will lead to decline.

We are truly grateful to those within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry who supported this science-based decision – from biologists and policy advisors right up to Minister Kathryn McGarry. Thanks to them, snapping turtles in Ontario now face one fewer threats to their long-term survival and recovery. The government’s decision sends a clear message to the public about the importance of protecting this at-risk species.

Above all, we owe a heart-felt thanks to the many organizations and individuals who have been tirelessly fighting to end the hunt since at least 2007. Eleven thousand people signed a petition to terminate the hunt back in 2012. Even more spoke out against a government proposal this year to continue the hunt, demanding instead that it be closed. This strong, steadfast alliance of concerned individuals and scientific experts – too numerous to name – has finally won the day.

It has been a collaborative journey of dogged determination, fueled by letters to ministers, petitions, reports, opinion editorials, action alerts, blogs and social media campaigns. When the going got tough, the fair and informed coverage by the press and by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario helped immensely to buoy weary spirits and keep the issue in the public eye.


Snapping turtle convoy; Credit: Scott Gillingwater

Thank goodness we never gave up. Thank goodness the government listened. Thank goodness for snapping turtles, those amazing, clunky, long-lived, prehistoric-looking creatures who play such a necessary role in our local ecosystems and whose very existence enriches the human experience in so many ways.



Anne Bell is Ontario Nature’s Director of Conservation and Education.


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  1. nick tardif

    This is a good day. Celebrate for a moment, but be aware, enforcing this may be another battle.

  2. Otto Peter

    Great work Ontario Nature and all of those who worked so hard to get the province to change their really bad decision. Hopefully it was done in time to save these beleaguered creatures.

  3. Sharon Callan

    Well done!!!! Persistence pays off. Hats off to Kathryn McGarry for listening and acting. Very refreshing.

  4. Emily Williams

    Does Ontario Nature actually do something for turtle conservation beyond releasing endless propaganda to generate revenue for their next campaign? How about some time and money spent on conserving wetlands and the habitat that limits snapping turtle populations rather than vilifying others. This seems counterproductive to turtle conservation.

    • ron brooks

      Perhaps you could elucidate your point more clearly? How does the objection to “hunting” and killing snapping turtles generate revenue? Who is being vilified? Why would you say this org doen’t spend money/effort on wetlands? Meanwhile, revel in the decision that ends a legal hunt of an at risk species that is seriously vulneable to human activities.

  5. Emily Williams

    How is an objection to hunting a justification for this decision? I liken Ontario Nature to Greenpeace. Stop at no costs to gain support for the cause.

    “Greenpeace adds that its attacks on Resolute ‘are without question non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion and at most non-actionable rhetorical hyperbole.’ ”


    • Shirley T

      Objection not to hunting but UNSUSTAINABLE hunting (as per press releases and blogs).

      • Emily Williams

        Oh okay. Unsustainable harvest definitely makes more sense. Can you point me to some links of peer-reviewed literature or data that shows Ontario’s legal snapping turtle harvest is unsustainable, so that I can make an informed opinion on this topic. I have yet to see anything beyond Biology 101 citations .

        • Otto Peter

          Emily please read the information on the snapping turtle on the ON website.
          The following URL from COSEWIC will give you information way beyond Biology 101 citations about snapping turtles. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2009/ec/CW69-14-565-2009E.pdf

          You will see that snapping turtles do not begin to reproduce until they are 17-25 years old. While adult turtles have no real predators except humans, mortality rates for newly hatched turtles is very high probably in the 90% range. Hunters usually go after the larger reproductive age turtles thereby removing these breeding animals from the ecosystem. Couple that with nest predation which in some areas is as high as 90% and you soon see that by removing even a few mature turtles can reduce the population quite quickly.
          By the way Ontario Nature has 25 Nature Reserves many of which contain sizable populations of most of the amphibian and reptile species at risk.
          As well Ontario Nature runs the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas which is a citizen-science project that tracks distributions and spatial trends of reptiles and amphibians across the province over time. The over-arching goal is to increase the collective knowledge base of reptiles and amphibians.

  6. Eugene West

    Thank you for your great campaign ! Glad that the government listened.


    As a member of Tiny Marsh, so happy to finally hear of the protection of Snapping Turtles. We had a speaker at our Naturalist Club tell us about guys with pick-up trucks full of huge 100-yr old Snapping Turtles and assume they are sold for their 40 lbs + meat. This is just not sustainable and what is needed is more enforcement now of the new legislation. Our Trumpeter Swans are also “Protected”, yet one was shot at the Tiny Marsh that had been sponsored and named Lonesome at the Wye Marsh. There could be no confusion over whether it was a duck or a Canada goose. A Cygnet was also shot at dusk flying in with other Swans to a wetland near Washago and not in hunting season. Both were rescued but died later. There is just not enough enforcement of the current laws.

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