The Snapping Turtles of Centreville
By Karen Paton-Evans
This spring, travelers along Mill Line near Centreville, the gently winding road ending in Karn Road to the south and Beachville Road to the north, will need to be watchful for the annual day-long trek that mother Snapping Turtles make to lay their eggs.
In late May and June, those mother snappers, aged 17 years and older, leave the safety of Centreville Conservation Area’s marsh, make the slow trek across Mill Line. After crawling up Indian Hill, they will find the right spot to dig a large hole and lay up to 50 eggs, before heading back to the pond.
It will not be until autumn that the loonie-sized hatchlings will hatch and instinctively make their way to the Centreville Pond in the Conservation Area, which is overseen by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority and cared for by the Township of South-West Oxford. As these turtles get older, some will be found in the park’s one-acre pond, and even “sunbathing” on logs. Mostly, snappers stay in the water, the natural habitat that gives them life. In turn, snappers play an important role in keeping our lakes and wetlands clean.
As Canada’s largest freshwater turtle, according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Snapping Turtle can grow up to 36 cm or longer (some Centreville snappers have been known to have even bigger shells) and weigh between 4.5 and 16 kg.
The Snapping Turtle takes 15-20 years to reach maturity, and therefore, the species’ survival rate is impacted by adult mortality rates. However, with the right environmental conditions, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) states, “Snapping Turtles are believed to live well over 100 years!” which means, the huge Snapping turtles residing in Centreville Pond could very well be the hamlet’s oldest residents.
The Snapping Turtle is listed as Special Concern under the Ontario Endangered Species Act and as Special Concern under the Federal Species at Risk Act. Snappers are designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. All of these acts protect both the snapping turtle and its habitat. The habitat of this species is also protected by the Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act.
“As with many other rare plants and animals, the Snapping Turtle depends on wetland habitat,” the Ministry of Natural Resources states, and adds that “You can help by protecting any wetlands and surrounding natural vegetation on your property.”
Centreville residents do their best to protect their snapper neighbours by accommodating nesting turtles and protecting their eggs; serving as traffic directors when the snappers are crossing Mill Line; and volunteering to maintain and watch over the Centreville Conservation Area and Pond.