Reptile and amphibian researchers meet in Manitoba in shadow of troubling report – Manitoba

Dozens of researchers from across the country are in Manitoba this weekend to talk about all things slithery and slimy, days after a World Wildlife Fund report suggested Canada’s reptiles and amphibian numbers have plummeted by 34 per cent since 1970.

“So many of Canada’s reptiles and amphibians are species at risk and facing a variety of threats,” said Joe Crowley, president of the Canadian Herpetological Society and an amphibian and reptile biologist with the Ontario government.

“A majority of our reptiles and amphibians are at risk across the country.”

Researchers will meet at Brandon University to discuss some of the most pressing conservation issues facing reptiles and amphibians, from highway traffic to habitat loss and climate change.

Turtles and cars

Vehicle traffic has meant turtles in some parts of Ontario are having a hard time surviving the slow, treacherous pilgrimages from their winter hibernation areas to drier upland nesting spots during spring migration season.

Snapping turtles populations have seen a decline in recent years, leading them to be added to Ontario’s species at risk list. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Most amphibian and reptile species live in the southern-most parts of the country. As humans continue to occupy more space in this prime habitat more roads are built that crisscross through the backyards of wet and wild creatures, posing an increasingly serious hazard, Crowley said.

According to Crowley, at academic conferences it’s now the norm to hear several presentations on how roads are hurting reptiles and amphibians, as well as what’s being done about it.

“They’re constantly crossing roads,” Crowly said, adding seven of eight Ontario turtle species are listed as at-risk.

A blandings turtle before and after a repair to its shell. This is a typical injury the centre treats, the shell usually heals after eight weeks. They use everything from an endoscope to super glue and cable ties to repair shells. (Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre)

Crowly added that turtles, because of their long life-histories, are particularity susceptible to slow attrition because of highways.

“Even a handful of [individual deaths] from a population can be more than enough to cause that population to be slowly declining over time.”

There heve been some innovative experiments in recent years, including the installation of fencing along busy highways meant to funnel turtles toward human-made “ecopassageways.”…

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