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

Snapping Turtles

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.

 

by Chris Hume

Baby Turtle

photo Chris Hume

I thought I would share a story with you from my nature journal today. I find that when I take the time to connect with nature I feel energized and renewed in spirit! There is something amazingly powerful about letting yourself “engage your senses fully in the privilege of being”! Many of us – in the rush of our daily lives – have less and less contact with the natural world. Here is what I found one morning – by spending time outside before work…

“I had an absolutely beautiful morning in the garden to start the day today. My wireless connection is down at home – so decided to just work outside – for the time I would normally be working away on the computer. I decided to take a look at the garden at the front – as the very last thing – and was thrilled to see a very large snapping turtle – digging in the garden beside the sidewalk going up to the front porch. She had very carefully dug up and moved the lavender plant that was in her way – and set it perfectly beside her on the sidewalk!! It had soil on the roots – and was ready to replant somewhere else. And she very slowly and patiently was digging with her back feet – a lovely, deep hole for the turtle eggs. I had my breakfast on the front porch and watched her getting the nest ready. And as I was finally tearing myself away from the garden to head into work – I stopped and tried to see her laying an egg. Which I did! And was even able to look into the nest – and see 7 or 8 eggs that had already been laid. Dieter was able to see her covering up the nest – and then head back down to the Mississippi River – her job was done! So it seems that in 80 to 90 days (from August 31 – Sept 10) there could be baby turtles emerging from our garden! I will be on turtle watch starting Aug. 31st!”

On Friday September 14th at 4:45 pm Dieter called to say that the baby Snappers were emerging from the garden! He came upon six of them – two on the driveway, two on the sidewalk, one in the grass and one just emerging from the nest in the garden – through a perfect one-at-a-time turtle-sized hole. I was still busy at the office – but shut down immediately and started the commute home – hoping to get home to see a snapper hatchling for myself. I arrived in just in time to see turtle #18 make his way into the world. And friends and family were able to come over and share in this magical moment and take some photos. I have sent the photos to a few friends and colleagues – and found that they knew very little about Snapping Turtles – beyond knowing that sometimes see them trying to cross country roads in the early sumer.

Interestingly enough, fewer than one in a thousand Snapping Turtle eggs will survive to maturity, so a Snapping Turtle female goes through this process dozens of times in her lifetime. And it is likely that the Turtles have been laying eggs in our neighbourhood (very near the Mississippi River) for hundreds of years. For everything you ever wanted to know about Snapping Turtles, check out this website.

Snapping Turtle Information

So the moral of this story is – if I had not taken the time to be outside early one morning in June this year – I would not have had this really great experience – and learned what I now know about the Snapping Turtle. Try it – give yourself some time to get outside – and see what you find. If nothing else I guarantee you will feel refreshed and ready to take on the world!

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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