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The Ontario government has announced amendments to the Hunting Regulation (O Reg 665/98, made under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997) that will, among other changes, prohibit the hunting of snapping turtles in the province.

In its original posting to the Environmental Registry (the “Registry”) the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (“MNRF”) proposed restricting the snapping turtle hunt. However, as outlined in the regulatory decision announcement posted to the Registry on March 31, 2017, the MNRF ultimately decided instead to introduce a complete ban.

The province’s initial proposal on the Registry attracted thousands of comments from the public. The final regulatory decision notes that there was “significant opposition” to maintaining any kind of open hunting season for snapping turtles, and this seems to have influenced the decision to ban the practice altogether.

Snapping turtles are listed as a species of “special concern” under the Endangered Species Act, as well as under the federal Species at Risk Act. Species are classified as special concern if they are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats. They do not, however, receive species or habitat protection under the Act.

Snapping turtles are slow to reproduce—they do not mature until they are 15 to 20 years old—and the deaths of even a few adults can have a profound effect on populations. In Ontario, they face threats from roads, where they are run over when attempting to cross, as well as by predation by humans and other animals.

Despite the “special concern” designation, prior to the introduction of the ban, it was legal to hunt the animals. In 2011, the MNRF rejected a request to remove the snapping turtle from the game hunting list.

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