I have spent hours of my life sitting on the back of my Grandpa’s boat which was parked in the bay overlooking the water. I would chase after frogs and keep an eye out for any turtles. Now that I’m older, I’m still doing the same thing…except now I call it research.
I remember my first experience up close with a snapping turtle. My younger cousin had caught it off the dock with one of my Grandpa’s fishing nets. I quickly rushed down to see it, although my Grandma warned me that it would bite my fingers if I got too close. I was mesmerized and thought it hilarious that this creature walked haphazardly off the end of the dock and escape into the water, likely as far away from us as it could swim.
Parcelled with this anecdote is the sad reality that snapping turtles have been listed as a species of “special concern” under the provincial Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007 as well as nationally by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). As defined by COSEWIC, special concern suggests that a species may become threatened or endangered by a combination of biological characteristics and defined threats. Such threats to their population include loss of habitat or degradation of habitat, road mortality, nest predation, and harvesting.
Despite these threats, snapping turtles are currently listed as game reptile under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and thus can be harvested for personal consumption with a valid recreational fishing license. While harvesting is thought to be minimal, there is no doubt that this allowance is detrimental to the future status of the snapping turtle. It takes 15 to 20 years for an adult snapping turtle to reach sexual maturity and therefore death of adults can greatly influence population numbers.
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is proposing to amend Ontario Regulation 665/98 (Hunting) under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to require annual mandatory reporting of snapping turtle harvest activities.
I believe that we are making great strides for the conservation of the snapping turtle with the proposed amendments and hope this information will be used to create stronger protection of this species. However, harvesting a species of special concern will only increase the threats to its existence and I would like to see it become illegal to hunt snapping turtles in Ontario outside of Provincial Parks and Crown Game Preserves.
If you feel the same way, or have any comments on the issue (positive or negative), please comment on the Environmental Registry. The comment period ends May 10, 2012. Let’s speak up for a species that cannot speak for itself and allow future generations to marvel at the wonders of this amazing creature.