Leech Lake, Muskoka

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Snapping Turtles

Common snapping turtle   

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is a large freshwater turtle of the family Chelydridae. Its natural range extends from southeastern Canada, southwest to the edge of the Rocky Mountains, as far east as Nova Scotia and Florida and as far southwest as northeastern Mexico. This species and the larger alligator snapping turtle are the only two species in this family found in North America (though the common snapping turtle, as its name implies, is much more widespread).[2]
Common snappers are noted for their belligerent disposition when out of the water, their powerful beak-like jaws, and their highly mobile head and neck (hence the specific name "serpentina", meaning "snake-like"). In some areas they are hunted very heavily for their meat, a popular ingredient in turtle soup. These turtles have lived for up to 47 years in captivity, while the lifespan of wild individuals is estimated to be around 30 years.


Anatomy and morphology

Illustration from Holbrook's North American Herpetology, 1842

Chelydra serpentina have rugged, muscular builds with ridged carapaces (though ridges tend to be more pronounced in younger individuals). The carapace (upper shell) length in adulthood may be nearly 50 cm (20 in), though 25–47 cm (9.8–19 in), is more common.[4] C. serpentina usually weighs 4.5–16 kg (9.9–35 lb). Any specimen above the afforementioned weights are exceptional, but the heaviest wild specimen caught reportedly weighed 34 kg (75 lb). Snapping turtles kept in captivity can be quite overweight due to overfeeding and have weighed as much as 39 kg (86 lb). In the northern part of its range, the snapping turtle is often the heaviest native freshwater turtle.[5]

Ecology and life history

Common habitats are shallow ponds, shallow lakes, or streams. Some may inhabit brackish environments, such as estuaries. Common snapping turtles sometimes bask—though rarely observed—by floating on the surface with only their carapace exposed, though in the northern parts of their range they will also readily bask on fallen logs in early spring. In shallow waters, common snappers may lie beneath a muddy bottom with only the head exposed, stretching their long necks to the surface for an occasional breath (note that their nostrils are positioned on the very tip of the snout, effectively functioning as snorkels). Snapping turtles are omnivores, consuming both plant and animal matter, and are important aquatic scavengers; but they are also active hunters that prey on anything they can swallow, including many invertebrates, fish, frogs, reptiles (including snakes and smaller turtles), unwary birds, and small mammals.

Snappers will travel extensively overland to reach new habitat or to lay eggs. Pollution, habitat destruction, food scarcity, overcrowding and other factors will drive snappers to move overland; it is quite common to find them traveling far from the nearest water source. This species mates from April through November, with their peak laying season in June and July. The female can hold sperm for several seasons, using it as necessary. Females travel over land to find sandy soil in which to lay their eggs, often some distance from the water. After digging a hole, the female typically deposits 25 to 80 eggs each year, guiding them into the nest with her hind feet and covering them with sand for incubation and protection. Incubation time is temperature-dependent, ranging from 9 to 18 weeks. In cooler climates, hatchlings overwinter in the nest. The Common Snapping Turtle is remarkably cold-tolerant; radio telemetry studies have shown that some individuals do not hibernate, but remain active under the ice during the winter.


Snapping turtles have "fierce" dispositions;[11] however, when encountered in the water, they usually slip quietly away from any disturbance.[12] Snapping turtles have evolved the ability to snap because unlike other turtles, they are too large to hide in their own shells when confronted. Snapping is their defense mechanism. However, these turtles rarely bite humans; they usually flee when threatened.
The snapper is an aquatic ambush hunter, capturing its prey with its beak-like jaws.[12]


LL Members Voice Need for Change

Over the past two weekends, I have spent time with more than 50 Lake Association members gathering their input on what they would like to see from the Association going forward

I would like to thank all of the people who shared their time, and bugs.  We couldn’t reach everyone but the input from members was almost universally consistent.  These are captured below.  I am including comments on how I would work with the executive team to address these issues.

·         There needs to be better communication

Members should feel they are valued customers of the Association.  Communication needs to provide much more visibility about financials, plans for road maintenance and improvement, and efforts to promote a better sense of community

·         More transparency about spending is essential

Member input will be sought on all major financial commitments.  Don Hill, the Treasurer is committed to sharing more information about the Association’s finances but has essentially been blocked currently. 

·         Members expect better value for money

A vote for me as President this weekend will result in the immediate implementation of procurement procedures and policies designed to end sole sourcing and deliver cost reduction.  This will apply to all major spending going forward.  Leech Lake’s reputation with contractors in the area will be rebuilt so that we have a number of interested contractors willing to bid on major work at the Lake.  Substandard workmanship will not be tolerated.  I would like to expand the size of the road committee and seek volunteers to perform some work on the road such as culvert cleaning each fall.  This will reduce expense on culvert repairs.  I would not be asking anyone to do something I am not prepared to do myself.  Overcharging and under-delivering will be discussed with current contractors. 

Don Hill and I will be pursuing funding from the Town in order to improve the road standard.  No promises except we will pursue this professionally and consistently.

·         The Association needs to be more responsive and democratic

We will use surveys of all members to establish priorities which will guide the direction the executive and each committee will be expected to follow.  Following the election I would like to do a travelling town hall, walking the road with members of the road committee and executive to gather input on priorities for road improvement and other issues.

We will seek member input about absentee voting over the internet for executive positions and for dues changes for example. 

·         Road conditions this spring are unacceptable

It was certainly a remarkable spring season.   Members have no information regarding when or if repairs will be made.  The road committee has been working on winter road maintenance for the coming winter.  That isn’t very responsive, or aligned with member needs.


·         The appetite for change is held universally

People express this in their own way.  Some are withholding dues.  More are quietly frustrated.  Without change, The Association could be heading for a crisis.  You may not agree with my views on type of change that is needed.  That’s OK; all input will be valued equally. Transition to this vision for the Association will be challenging.  I am not at all certain that the current road committee is prepared to work within this member driven team concept.

·         Many believe that road conditions have been deteriorating for many years

There simply have not been sufficient funds dedicated to summer road maintenance.  This has been the case for several years.  The necessary funds can be generated through improved value for money.  My primary objective is to improve the standard of road conditions in the months when the Lake is used by most members.  That will require understanding from winter residents and frequent visitors.  The portion of dues which goes to summer maintenance will likely need to be increased.  That decision would be driven by members.  

·         Members expressed concerns about interpersonal issues being played out at the AGM

Effective management which is fair to all stakeholders should help to reduce tensions.  To the extent that the executive has exacerbated tensions, steps will be taken to ensure that executive processes and actions are fair and seen to be fair to all stakeholders.  Effective overall management of the Association is the best way to change this. 

·         People are concerned about  the Lake community being divided

Community building events such as the regatta need to be reinstated.  Some of us would like a social event such as a corn roast in the fall. 

We will be sending a press release regarding the FOCA Environmental Achievement Award to all local media.  We will be inviting them to the annual Benthic Census on July 20th where they can see Stewardship on Leech Lake in action.

We need to promote a more positive image of Leech Lake in the broader area.  Getting better value for money and delivering results for all stakeholders will help build a sense of community.

·         Several members expressed concern about dues non-payment. 

There are a number of reasons why people don’t pay their dues.  Most of this revolves around feelings of alienation about how things are done.  Their views and needs are not met.  The best way to improve the situation is through effective management which is stakeholder driven.  Interestingly, some people who have not paid dues for some time have reached out to me.  Simply stated, they want change. 

We expect many more members to attend the AGM this coming Sunday.  Members may wish to consider having just one person attend in order to accommodate all of the people who expressed an interest in attending.       
  Larry Jacobs

Monday, June 17, 2013

Leech Lake at 5:30 am

The pictures below are of Leech Lake as it greets the day at 5:30 am. Pictures are from the camera of Barry Shepherd.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Turtle Watch

This is the time of year turtles are locating ideal spots to build a nest and lay their eggs. An ideal spot is in sand or loose soil where they can easily dig a trench and lay their eggs. They also look for spots that are exposed to the sun so the heat will penetrate the nest and incubate the eggs. Gravel/sand pits are ideal and also the gravel embankments along the side of the roads are usual spots.

These creatures encounter many hazards during their life time and when they venture near roads automobiles are a major hazard. Please lets be vigilant.

Don Hill reports he has seen at least 12 nesting along the side of the road where the culverts are
passing through the swamp area before the hunt camp.

Also he has observed  them by the road at the sand pit area and the flooded area where the s-turn is, about 3 kilometers in on Fraserburg Rd.  Mostly they have been big snappers but there has been a number of (I have seen 5) painted turtles up on rocks along the shore lines.  I Have not
been around the lake here but people are saying it seems to be a big year for painted turtles.