Snapping turtles in danger

Guest post by Blair Eveleigh, senior associate editor

We humans have been around for a few million years, about six or so. Bah! That’s nothing, at least when compared to the snapping turtle, which has logged approximately 40 millions years of existence. It’s hard to believe they have been around so long, given how difficult it is for them to survive. Here’s some info from the Nature Scrapbook we did on them in our June ’06 issue: “Many summers in central Ontario are too short and cool for snapping turtle eggs to hatch, and at least 80 per cent of nests are usually found by skunks and other predators. Of the toonie-sized turtlets that do hatch in September, less than one per cent dodge hungry birds and fish and other fates to see their fifth birthday.” Sounds like only a precious handful get to become adult turtles, though if they do survive to maturity, they usually live a long time, some for 70 years and a few to more than 100.

The other predator, not mentioned above, is, of course, us. We divide, eliminate, and pollute the snapping turtle’s habitat, wetlands, with development and highways; we run them over on those highways; and, even though the snapping turtle is now considered a species of special concern and is on Ontario’s species at risk list, we hunt them down and kill them.

Ontario Nature, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre have issued a report about the plight of the snapping turtle, The Road to Extinction: A Call to End the Snapping Turtle Hunt, and are calling for a stop to the provincial policy that allows hunting of snappers. Protecting their habitat would be another good thing to do. If you have any wetlands on your property, consider any turtles that may live there before you do anything to the land that could affect them.

Come see an exhibit and daily presentations by the folks from the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre at the Spring Cottage Life Show in the Wildlife Centre in Hall 4, March 30 to April 1 at the International Centre in Toronto.