Skip to main content

Ontario finally ends controversial hunt of snapping turtles

The Green Pages,
April 7 2017

Conservation groups in Ontario are applauding the provincial government’s decision to end hunting of snapping turtles.

Ontario lists the snapping turtle as a species of “special concern,” which means that although it is not yet endangered or threatened, a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats, including hunting, could endanger or threaten it.

“Snapping turtles mature at a very late age,” says Scott Gillingwater, past president of the Canadian Herpetological Society. “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. Ending hunting of snapping turtles is an important and necessary first step in the recovery of this species, an outcome that all groups that value nature and the outdoors should support.”

In December 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry proposed to limit but not end the hunt. In response, thousands of Ontarians submitted comments through the Environmental Registry, asking the government to close the hunt completely.

“At a local scale, the hunt can have disastrous impacts on some populations,” says Rachel Plotkin, science projects manager for the David Suzuki Foundation in Ontario. “Ending the hunt is important not only at the local scale but also on the global stage, as turtles are in decline across the planet.”

Science clearly shows the hunt is unsustainable, and that snapping turtle populations will decline with even minor increases in adult deaths. Hunting adds to the cumulative adverse impacts of other significant threats to the species, making recovery more difficult and expensive.

“I commend the government for embracing a precautionary approach and heeding the science,” says Ontario Nature conservation and education director Anne Bell. “Ending the hunt helps to give snapping turtles a fighting chance and frees us up to focus attention on dealing with other threats such as wetland loss and road kills.”