Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley
Mississippi River at Pakenham

Local Species

Ontario Nature Notice: Crunch time for snapping turtles (and bullfrogs)!

NOTE: The information below from Ontario Nature references a proposal currently open for public comment on the Environmental Registry. As we have noted previously on this website, the Environmental Registry is an important way for the public to send their concerns, information and feedback directly to people involved in making decisions affecting the natural world in Ontario. Once you register at the Environmental Registry site as a user of the site, your comments can be submitted in confidence and become part of the public record. It is easy to do, and useful. To see the files, and to comment you can do so at these links  EBR Number 012-9169 and also EBR Number 012-9170  See all the details from Ontario Nature below . . . 

. . . . or, go directly to the Ontario Nature page and sign the petitionto Ontario Natural Resources and Forestry Minister Kathryn McGarry:

CLICK HERE TO SIGN ONTARIO NATURE PETITION

“I oppose the proposal to continue the hunting of at-risk snapping turtles. The hunt is contrary to the best scientific evidence and your own ministry’s policy objective of sustaining wildlife populations. Snapping turtles cannot sustain the additional pressure of hunting. I also oppose the proposal to continue the hunting of bullfrogs, a species in decline in many parts of the province. The government must end the hunt now before this animal too becomes at risk in Ontario.”

Ontario Nature: It’s Crunch time:

After years of dithering, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is poised to make a critical decision about the hunting of snapping turtles. Lamentably, the ministry is proposing to continue the hunt, with the addition of some restrictions. Regardless of added restrictions, the continuation of the hunt runs contrary to the best advice of scientific experts.

Make no mistake; this compromise approach will not work for the at-risk snapping turtle, given its late age of maturity, low egg and juvenile survival rates and exceptionally high adult mortality due to an array of human-caused threats. The proposal is open for public comment only until January 30, 2017.

Let the government know that the hunt must end, period. Go to the Ontario Nature page to sign the petition. Secondly one can go to the EBR registry from using the EBR numbers links included above and comment directly to the files.

Further details:

The plan to continue the snapping turtle hunt is part of a broader policy proposal, to “streamline and modernize the management of small game and furbearer wildlife species in Ontario.” Bullfrogs are also implicated, along with many bird and mammal species. (More on the bullfrog below.)

Admittedly, the snapping turtle proposal is an improvement on the current deplorable situation. Right now, snapping turtles can be hunted year-round in some parts of the province and from July 15 to September 15 in other parts. The daily bag limit is 2 and the possession limit is 5. The proposal is to reduce the season to run from August 15 to September 15, with a daily bag limit of 1 and a possession limit of 2.

A change for the better, but certainly not what is needed. We need your help to convince the government to proceed to a full ban. Here’s why:

  1. Snapping turtle populations cannot sustain even small increases in adult mortality. The science is clear. Evidence from snapping turtle studies shows that the removal of adults or older juveniles will result in a population decline. Taking just one or two adults from a population on a yearly basis will lead to decline.
  2. Turtles are the most threatened taxa globally. Freshwater turtle abundances today represent only a fraction of their historical numbers. In fact, all but one of Ontario’s turtle species are at risk. The vulnerability of several turtle species, including the snapping turtle, was highlighted by a recent decision to list them under  CITES (the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, an international agreement among governments), recognizing the pressure that harvest and trade have on this species.
  3. Snapping turtles face many threats; hunting adds to the cumulative impact. The main threats are habitat loss and road mortality. Other threats include boat mortality, fishing by-catch, mortality from dredging and construction, invasive species, persecution, illegal collection, exposure to toxic contaminants and more. Hunting is just one more peril that these turtles must face, on top of all the others. It’s completely unnecessary, could easily be addressed by the government.
  4. The hunt contradicts proposed provincial and federal management objectives, which aim to sustain populations. The hunt is not sustainable. It is in direct conflict with the management objectives of both the proposed provincial policy, which is “sustainable populations,” and the proposed federal management plan which is to sustain or increase populations across the country.  
  5. The snapping turtle is a species at risk. How can Ontario justify a hunt for a species that is on the road to extinction? It is also contrary to the purpose of the Endangered Species Act, 2007, which is to protect and promote the recovery of species at risk. If the hunt continues, Ontario will be one of only two provinces in Canada to allow it. Definitely not in good company.

Please join Ontario Nature in calling for an end to the hunting of snapping turtles and bullfrogs by the January 30 deadline. Be sure to reference EBR numbers 012-9170 AND 012-9169.

 

Local Turtle Species

NOTE: this page still in progress

Of the 8 species of turtle native to Ontario, only 6 species are found in our area of Eastern Ontario. Most are listed by COSWIC.

Recommended on-line resource for more details and photos for these species: Species Guide – Toronto Zoo

1. Snapping Turtle: SPECIAL CONCERN

2. Stinkpot: THREATENED

3. Northern Map Turtle: SPECIAL CONCERN

4. Midland Painted Turtle

5. Blanding’s Turtle: THREATENED

6. Spotted Turtle: ENDANGERED

 

 

 

Local Snake Species

[NOTE: Photo featured on link from FB page is of an Eastern Gartersnake. Photo by Joe Crowley, Ontario Nature site]

Only 9 species of snake call our region of Eastern Ontario home.

Of the seventeen species  in Ontario, only 9 are found in our area. Our local expert Tobi Kiesewalter: key conservation issues for the snakes here include: maintaining habitat and increasing awareness of risks snakes face from road hazards and human persecution. Although none of Eastern Ontario’s snakes pose a danger to humans, they are often misunderstood or feared because they are rarely seen or when seen they may be mistaken for another species which could pose a danger.

Surprisingly, although it is generally rare for snakes, five Eastern Ontario species do not lay eggs at all but give birth to live young. As a consequence hazards of the road are even more serious for these species if a gravid female is involved.

Recommended on-line resource for more details and photos for these 9 species: Ontario Snakes Resource – Toronto Zoo

1. Northern Water Snake: may be mistaken for the venomous water moccasin. Gives birth to live young

2. Eastern Milk Snake:may be encountered acting aggressively while shaking its tail
against dry leaves, and be incorrectly identified as a rattlesnake. COSEWIC species of special concern

3. Black (Eastern) Rat Snake: a threatened species in Ontario. In winter Black Rat snakes congregate in communal burrows or hibernacula and they return to the same ones year after year. Therefore they should never be relocated more than 100-200 metres away; they will die when winter comes.  Temperature regulation is also important in the summer. Eggs laid in carefully chosen nests will require 10 weeks of 30 degrees C to develop. Therefore it is critical to not disturb rock piles, rotting stumps or standing dead trees. Sightings of rare black rat snakes can be reported to the Natural Heritage Information Centre at http://nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca.

4. Northern (Dekay’s) Brown Snakegives birth to live young

5. Northern Red-bellied Snake: gives birth to live young

6. Ring-necked Snake: not endangered. Ring neck and orange-yellow belly.

7. Eastern Ribbon Snake: white half-moon markings in front of its eyes. Listed as species of special concern. Gives birth to live young.

8. Eastern Smooth Green Snake:elusive but beautifulBright green and shiny.

9. Eastern Garter Snakegives birth to live young

Our expert Tobi Kiesewalter says: “our snakes are a tough bunch”. He explains: They survive in spite of challenges of being ‘ectotherms’ in our cold climate, thanks to adaptations and to the proper habitat still being found here. Forest edge habitat is critical since to regulate body temperature they need both cooling forest shade and open areas for basking in the sun. Especially for the endangered black rat snake, it is critical to not disturb rock piles, rotting stumps or standing dead trees.

As mentioned, although it is generally rare for snakes, five Eastern Ontario species do not lay eggs
at all but give birth to live young. The live-bearing or ‘gravid’ females can control the temperature
of developing young by regulating their own temperature. As a consequence, however, hazards of
the road are even more serious for these species if a gravid female is involved.

 

 

Plants

A complete list of all the plants which might be found in our local Lanark county area is of course an extensive one. Unlike, for example, the list of snakes, which contains only nine.

The list includes many plants in unique rare habitats within the region. At any time, the list could be subject to update.

Fortunately,  local expert and botanist David White has created a website Plants of Lanark County at http://www.lanarkflora.com/. On this site, there is a complete list of species and also discussion of significance of certain rare species and their habitats.

Even in one 24-hr fall day during MVFN’s Bioblitz many plant species were identified, i.e. on the Bell Bushlot in Mississippi Mills. For a list of these, please see the the report of the species seen that day: Bell Bushlot Bioblitz Report.

Lanark County Birds

During the year of 2014, from January 1st to December 31st, Iain Wilkes recorded 203 species within the boundaries of Lanark County as part of his Lanark Big Year project.

The following checklist has been provided by Iain. This is a list of 283 possible species within Lanark county as well as the ones that were recorded within 2014 including locations where most of the species were seen.

Lanark County Birds Checklist

Careful consideration was put into the species to include in this list. Note that some birds such as Barn Owls, which may be a once-in-a-lifetime sighting for the area, were not included. The list includes birds which one may reasonably expect to see in the area at this time.

The Messenger

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MVFN's natural history talks take place on 3rd Thursdays, Jan-April and Sept-November, at  Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, ON. All welcome!

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