Wildlife plays a key role in Ontario's ecosystem and contributes to a broad range of ecological, social, cultural, recreational and economic benefits.
Snapping turtles are experiencing increasing pressure due to habitat loss/degradation, road mortality, nest predation and illegal harvesting/collection. In 2009, snapping turtle was added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List (Ontario Regulation 230/08) as a “special concern” species. The snapping turtle has also recently been listed nationally as a “special concern” species by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
A designation of “special concern” means that while the species is not “threatened” or “endangered” it has the potential to become so due to a combination of biological characteristics and threats. As such, there is reason to be cautious in how they are managed.
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has taken steps to help support the long-term conservation of snapping turtles in Ontario, including banning the commercial harvest and sale of snapping turtles, introducing regulations to restrict the season, and possession limits, working with the Ministry of Transportation to reduce the road mortality, protecting and conserving wetland habitats through a number of existing legislative requirements and planning processes, and researching and monitoring.
Snapping turtles are currently listed as a game reptile under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. Snapping turtles can be harvested for personal consumption with a valid recreational fishing license. There are additional regulations that restrict harvest areas, season dates and bag/possession limits. It is illegal to harvest snapping turtles in provincial parks or Crown Game Preserves.
While the harvest of snapping turtle is thought to be minimal, the MNR is proposing to amend Ontario Regulation 665/98 (Hunting) under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to require annual mandatory reporting of snapping turtle harvest activities. It is proposed that the reporting requirement will come into effect for the 2012 season.
The MNR is proposing this initial step as a preliminary step to provide a mechanism to collect vital harvest information, and support future management decisions regarding snapping turtles.