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Environmentalists welcome end to turtle hunting in Canada

By Tim Sandle,
Digital Journal,
April 4 2017

Environmental groups have welcomed the decision by the regional government of Ontario to stop hunting the endangered snapping turtle.

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is a large freshwater turtle, found in southeastern Canada, southwest to the edge of the Rocky Mountains, as far east as Nova Scotia and Florida. The name of the turtle relates to the combative disposition of the turtle when out of the water with its powerful beak-like jaws.

While the turtle population is low, at sufficient numbers to mark it as a species of “special concern”, the turtle is not officially endangered. This meant that hunting of the turtle was not prohibitive. The new measures now prevent the hunting, although the status of the turtle has yet to be changed.

The process leading up to the hunting ban began in December 2016 when the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry put forward the limiting of hunting, which fell short of a total ban. This led to a campaign initiated by environmental organizations, encouraging people to submit comments via the Environmental Registry calling on the government to ban hunting completely.

Evidence was additionally provided by campaign groups. This was science and fact based, demonstrating that continuing with any level of turtle hunting was not sustainable. Data indicated that even the killing of a few adult turtles would lead to significant population reductions in the short term. The public comments and data reviews proved successful and the ban was implemented on April 1, 2017 through an amendment to Ontario Regulation 665/98 (Hunting).

With this, Scott Gillingwater, who is involved with the Canadian Herpetological Society, said: “Snapping turtles mature at a very late age. It generally takes 17 to 20 years before a female can lay her first clutch of eggs, making populations of this species exceptionally vulnerable to increased mortality of adults.”

Although the ban is important it does not completely remove the threat to turtle populations. Other risks to turtle numbers arise from wetland loss and road kills.

The move to stop hunting the turtle has been welcomed by the Canadian activist organization, the David Suzuki Foundation. Other organizations in support of the hunting ban are the Canadian Herpetological Society and Ontario Nature. The organizations hope that the move by the Ontario government is the trigger for other countries where turtles are at risk.