Snapping turtle
Photo by Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock.com

Ontario bans snapping turtle hunt after months of public consultation

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Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources recently introduced a ban on hunting snapping turtles anywhere in the province.

Although the hunt was once unregulated, in 2012 it became mandatory for Ontarians who harvest snapping turtles to report their numbers to the Ministry of Natural Resources, though they could still legally kill two snappers per day in season.

Prior to the ban, the Ministry proposed restricting the hunt further, but many environmental groups argued that it wasn’t enough to protect the at-risk species. Long-term studies have shown that snapping turtle populations are declining, and according to the federal government’s management plan, a 0.1 percent increase in the annual mortality rate of snapping turtles 15 years of age and older would halve the number of adults in a local population in less than 20 years. 

The public was invited to submit comments on the Ministry’s proposed changes to the regulations until January 30, 2017. After receiving more than 13,460 comments opposing the hunt, the Ministry decided to ban it outright.

“I was thrilled,” Essex Town Councillor Sherry Bondy told CBC News. According to reports,  Bondy’s been working to stop the hunt for the past five years.

The ban has also been celebrated by a number of environmental organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, which considers the hunt unsustainable. 

“Snapping turtle populations will decline with even minor increases in adult deaths,” a statement by the foundation said.

That’s because it takes up to 20 years for snapping turtles to reach sexual maturity, and scientists have estimated that only one in 1,500 snapping turtle eggs makes it to adulthood. Despite the fact that turtles’ tough shells have helped them survive predators and mass extinctions for millions of years, they also slow them down, and that’s made busy roadways one of the biggest hazards they face. 

The hunt was never their biggest threat. It did, however, add to other adverse impacts facing the turtles, and according to the David Suzuki Foundation, that’s made the species’ recovery even more difficult and expensive.