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Crunch time for snapping turtles (and bullfrogs)!




End the hunting of snapping turtles and bullfrogs

To: Minister McGarry
Subject: Crunch time for snapping turtles (and bullfrogs!) EBR #012-9170 AND EBR #012-9169

Forms

RE: Snapping turtle hunt

It’s crunch time. After years of dithering, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is poised to make a critical decision about the hunting of snapping turtles. Lamentably, the ministry is proposing to continue the hunt, with the addition of some restrictions. Regardless of added restrictions, the continuation of the hunt runs contrary to the best advice of scientific experts. 

Make no mistake; this compromise approach will not work for the at-risk snapping turtle, given its late age of maturity, low egg and juvenile survival rates and exceptionally high adult mortality due to an array of human-caused threats. The proposal is open for public comment until January 30, 2017.
 
Let the government know that the hunt must end, period.

The plan to continue the snapping turtle hunt is part of a broader policy proposal, to “streamline and modernize the management of small game and furbearer wildlife species in Ontario.” Bullfrogs are also implicated, along with many bird and mammal species. (More on the bullfrog below.)

Admittedly, the snapping turtle proposal is an improvement on the current deplorable situation. Right now, snapping turtles can be hunted year round in some parts of the province and from July 15 to September 15 in other parts. The daily bag limit is 2 and the possession limit is 5. The proposal is to reduce the season to run from August 15 to September 15, with a daily bag limit of 1 and a possession limit of 2.

A change for the better, but certainly not what is needed. We need your help to convince the government to proceed to a full ban. Here’s why: 
  1. Snapping turtle populations cannot sustain even small increases in adult mortality. The science is clear. Evidence from snapping turtle studies shows that the removal of adults or older juveniles will result in a population decline. Taking just one or two adults from a population on a yearly basis will lead to decline.
  2. Turtles are the most threatened taxa globally. Freshwater turtle abundances today represent only a fraction of their historical numbers. In fact, all but one of Ontario’s turtle species are at risk. The vulnerability of several turtle species, including the snapping turtle, was highlighted by a recent decision to list them under CITES  (the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, an international agreement among governments), recognizing the pressure that harvest and trade have on this species. 
  3. Snapping turtles face many threats; hunting adds to the cumulative impact. The main threats are habitat loss and road mortality. Other threats include boat mortality, fishing by-catch, mortality from dredging and construction, invasive species, persecution, illegal collection, exposure to toxic contaminants and more. Hunting is just one more peril that these turtles must face, on top of all the others. It’s completely unnecessary, could easily be addressed by the government. 
  4. The hunt contradicts proposed provincial and federal management objectives, which aim to sustain populations. The hunt is not sustainable. It is in direct conflict with the management objectives of both the proposed provincial policy, which is “sustainable populations,” and the proposed federal management plan which is to sustain or increase populations across the country.  
  5. The snapping turtle is a species at risk. How can Ontario justify a hunt for a species that is on the road to extinction? It is also contrary to the purpose of the Endangered Species Act, 2007, which is to protect and promote the recovery of species at risk. If the hunt continues, Ontario will be one of only two provinces in Canada to allow it. Definitely not in good company.

As noted above, MNRF is also proposing to continue the hunting of bullfrogs, a species in decline in many parts of Ontario. Bullfrogs have suffered catastrophic habitat losses across much of the province, and are also threatened by agrochemicals, road salt, road mortality and invasive species. As noted in ON Nature magazine, “some commercial operators have reported ceasing their harvesting efforts in regions where once they were able to fill freezers full of frogs.”  A precautionary approach to conservation would suggest that the hunt should end now, before this animal joins the ever-expanding ranks of species at risk.
 
Please join Ontario Nature in calling for an end to the hunting of snapping turtles and bullfrogs by the January 30 deadline. Be sure to reference EBR numbers 012-9170 AND 012-9169.

Photo credit: John Mizel CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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