THUNDER BAY – The David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Nature and the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre released a new report today documenting the plight of Ontario’s imperilled snapping turtles, prehistoric creatures that have been around for 40 million years but are being pushed to the brink of extinction. The Road to Extinction: A Call to End the Snapping Turtle Hunt highlights a controversial provincial policy that allows snappers to be hunted, despite being listed as a species at risk, and identifies eight hotspots where thousands of turtles are being run over and killed by cars each year.
“This report demonstrates that snapping turtles cannot withstand such high mortality rates,” said Dr. Anne Bell, director of conservation and education with Ontario Nature. “It is our hope that the Province will act on our recommendation to ban the hunt – one simple step towards protecting this amazing animal.”
The report calls for an end to the Ministry of Natural Resources controversial policy that allows anyone with a provincial game or fishing licence to “bag” up to two snapping turtles a day – a policy that the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario recently said should end.
“Snapping turtles face an uncertain future in Ontario because we have paved over 70 percent of southern Ontario’s wetlands and created corridors of death with our roads and highways,” said Dr. Sue Carstairs, Medical Director at the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre. “While we must find long term solutions to deal with these threats, the province has the power to give snappers a fighting chance today by ending the hunt.”
Michael Gravelle, Minister of Natural Resources responds “I would like to thank the David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Nature and the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre for their report. The snapping turtle continues to be a widespread and locally abundant species, however due to risks associated primarily with habitat loss, nest predation and road mortality; the snapping turtle is listed as a species of ‘special concern'”.
“To ensure the protection of the species, we continue to be involved in the protection and restoration of wetlands, their primary habitat, and have banned the commercial harvest and sale of the snapping turtle. We are also working closely with the Ministry of Transportation, as well as the general public, to reduce road mortality of all turtle species, and continue to collect information to support future management planning activities that will ensure the long- term survival of the snapping turtle,” continued the Minister.
The report recommends that:
- Ontarians call their MPP and tell him or her to support a ban on hunting snapping turtles;
- Municipalities and the province install wildlife passages in key road mortality hotspots identified in the report;
- The federal government ban the release of persistent, bioaccumulative toxic substances into the air and water; and
- The public help turtles safely cross roads and report sightings to Ontario Nature’s Reptile and Amphibian Atlas.
“The future of these prehistoric creatures now depends on the choices we make and the action we take – and the solutions are clear,” said Rachel Plotkin, Biodiversity Policy Analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation. “We must ensure that our remaining wetlands are protected and continue to build infrastructure that provides safe passage for turtles. And Ontario’s hunt for snappers simply must end.”