Despite being a Species At Risk, snapping turtles are still legally hunted in Ontario. On December 19 the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) announced proposed changes to hunting and trapping rules for small game and furbearers. Unbelievably, the snapping turtle is still considered small game in Ontario and is the only reptile legally hunted for sport in the province. The MNRF proposes limiting, but not eliminating, the season and bag limits for snapping turtles and bullfrogs. The public has until January 30th to weigh in on the suggested amendments.
Turtles are the most threatened species worldwide and even in our own province 7 of our 8 species are at risk of becoming endangered. Many threats such as habitat loss, road mortality, and poaching, affect all of Ontario’s reptiles. However snapping turtles are especially vulnerable due to their own biology. It can take a snapping turtle up to 20 years to mature and begin to reproduce. They experience limited reproduction success, which means that very few eggs hatch and reach adulthood. An adult must reproduce many times over before it can replace itself, let alone increase the population. Therefore, every adult that is removed from the general population strikes a blow to the entire species. Currently, residents with a fishing license can harvest 2 snapping turtles per day during the summer and they have a possession limit of 5. One
hunter alone could potentially decimate an entire population in one season.
The snapping turtle does not hold a place of high esteem in the public view. It is not cute and it is not friendly. There are many misconceptions about this creature and many people erroneously fear it. However, it has an important part in the ecosystem. It keeps the environment clean by disposing of dead animals and fish, it creates paths and tunnels underwater that other animals need to use and it cleans up underwater vegetation. We may never know how much we rely on the snapping turtle to do until we’ve let it disappear forever.
You can have your say on ending the snapping turtle hunt in Ontario by clicking here