Photos courtesy of Diane Friend Edwards
Comments will be accepted through August 21 for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental's Draft 2015 Wildlife Action Plan. The plan is available at www.ct.gov/deep/WildlifeActionPlan.
The lobster population has crashed to the lowest levels on record in southern New England while climbing to heights never before seen in the cold waters off Maine and other northern reaches — a geographic shift that scientists attribute in large part to the warming of the ocean, according to the Associated Press, as reported in The New York Times. Click here to read the article.
Scientists Urge Ban On Salamander Imports To U.S. To Keep Fungus At Bay
A deadly type of chytrid fungus has been decimating wild European salamanders. Scientists believe the fungus originated in Asia and spread to Europe via the international pet trade. To prevent salamander die-offs here, American scientists are urging an immediate ban on live salamander imports to the U.S. S. Click heree for more information.
Newly Found Parasite Infesting Tadpoles Worldwide, Including Eastern US
Frogs, already among the most threatened animals worldwide, face a new threat. A newly identified parasitic protist (a single-celled microorganism) is infesting tadpoles of different types of frogs in tropical and temperate environments, according to the results of a study published August 17, 2015, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Click heree for more information.
Snapping Turtles: Coming Off Death Row?
A state law banning the sale of wild animals exempts just one animal species: snapping turtles. Wildlife experts have almost no data on the number of snappers in Connecticut, but the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) issues permits to trappers, hunters, and fishers that cumulatively allow the taking of snapping turtles each year. Is the amount sustainable? No one knows.
A bill proposed in the General Assembly by Rep. Matt Lesser earlier this year would have promoted “full legal equality for Connecticut’s snapping turtles.” The bill died but it did result in DEEP drafting new regulations that reportedly include better protections for snappers. If the regulations survive internal review, they will eventually be open for public comment. Most turtle protectors favor no trapping, as is the case under New York law, which allows killing by firearm or bow only (http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/31339.html#Snapping).
Meanwhile, there are things you can do to help improve the plight of snapping turtles. But first, here is some background.
Some Regulation But Little Enforcement
When lawmakers banned the sale of wildlife in 1971, they exempted snapping turtles so as not to interfere with the taking of snappers for their meat and shells (even though the meat of mature snapping turtles tends to be contaminated with mercury, PCBs, and the like).
Following 2011, the “year of the turtle,” DEEP adopted regulations to slightly limit the killing of snappers. They can be taken by almost any means, typically by trapping. A turtle trapper can get free permits for up to three traps. Each trap must have its permit number visible above the water. The traps must be visited at least once a day. Snappers may be shot and removed. Other wildlife must be released. Yet, Rep. Lesser heard from constituents who had seen illegal traps and traps holding two or three turtles that were attacking each other. The consensus among observers and regulators was that the traps were being left unattended for several days or longer. Some of the traps were unpermitted.
As for legal traps, the bag limit is five snappers a day and 30 in one season. For this year’s trapping season, which began in July, DEEP issued about 384 snapper trapping endorsements (permits). If every snapping turtle trapper, hunter, and fisher were to use these permits to the limit, a total of 11,400 turtles would be taken this year.
Now the snapping turtle is relatively common in Connecticut, but not that common. Moreover, DEEP has a new mantra: Keep common species common. Yet DEEP says it needs to go step by step to justify new restrictions on turtle trapping. In addition, DEEP’s wildlife division is severely understaffed. They have almost no data on the size and locations of the snapper population in Connecticut or the numbers being taken illegally (which most experts guess exceed the number taken). They also have almost no staff for enforcement.
Snapping turtles have an image problem: Many people think they are mean, dangerous, and ought to be killed on sight. This sentiment is waning but still significant. We at Rivers Alliance believe that, as we march into Earth's sixth great species extinction, even snappers have value.
Snappers are primarily nocturnal and shy of humans. They clean up their waters. As with any animal, they should not be approached in private moments, such as egg laying. And snappers do have a wicked bite if threatened. Unless you know what you’re doing, do not try to handle one. If it is crossing a road, see if you can safely stop traffic. If it crosses at the same spot every year, put up a Turtle Crossing sign.
The following people are involved in the protection of snapping turtles: Rep. Matt Lesser of Middletown, environmental activists Barrie Robbins-Pianka and John C. Hall of Middletown, Rep. Phil Miller of Essex, and Professor Barry Chernoff of Wesleyan University. Sympathizers in DEEP include Rick Jacobson, Director of the Wildlife Division, and Jenny Dickson, Supervising Wildlife Biologist.
Mr. Jacobson and his colleagues at DEEP have drafted new regulations that reportedly include better protections for snappers. If their regulations survive internal review, they will eventually be open for public comment.
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut