Blog Posts

Easily mistaken for a concrete lump along the river or in your backyard, snapping turtles are Canada’s largest freshwater turtles. With thick, ridged upper shells and long studded tails, this hardy species weighs up to 16 kilograms and grows to 35 centimeters in length. Unable to fully retract into their shells when threatened, snapping turtles snap their toothless jaws in defense. This has earned these creatures their lovely name.

Snapping turtles are omnivorous. They feed on living and dead animal and plant matter. This includes aquatic plants, frogs, snakes and fish. They play an important role in keeping our lakes and wetlands clean.

The species is widespread in eastern Canada, from Southeastern Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia. Manitoba Herps Atlas, a citizen science platform that tracks the province’s reptiles and amphibians, reported 36 observations of the snapping turtles in the past 10 years. These robust reptiles were sighted throughout the province from the forested parklands of the Riding Mountain National Park and Nopiming Provincial Park shield country to Winnipeg neighborhoods such as Royalwood. Fond of slow-moving water and soft mud or sand bottoms, it’s no surprise that this aquatic species has made the Seine River its home.

In 2014, Manitoba joined other Canadian jurisdictions in protecting our most vulnerable turtle populations, by listing snapping turtles and painted turtles as protected animals. In addition to loss of wetland habitat, risks to their health also include sensory disturbance and injury due to road accidents and construction activities. Although they have few natural predators and can live over 70 years, they reach sexual maturity only at 15 to 20 years of age. Death or injury to mature turtles and destruction of their nests, eggs and hatchlings can delay them from achieving a stable population which can take decades to build up.

Michelle Pichette Breault recounted her encounter in late August with some turtles along the Seine River. Denis De Pape, Save Our Seine tour guide, had pointed them out to her. Michelle caught a fast one on video as it headed towards the river straight out of its nest. There were at least 15 hatchlings in the sandy nest close to the trail. As they watched the hatchlings burrow their way out from their nest and make a beeline for the water, Michelle mused on their battle for survival dodging feet and tires on the walkway and ducking for cover as the shadows of hawks loomed ahead.

Video by Michelle Pichette Breault

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has conserved many areas across Canada where snapping turtles occur. One of these is the Interlake Natural Area in Manitoba. Nature Conservancy of Canada and Manitoba Herps Atlas, report turtle sightings to identify sites in need of collective conservation action. Public participation is encouraged. To share turtle sightings, you can visit the Manitoba Herps Atlas or the Nature Conservancy of Canada websites.

Originally published in The Lance on September 2, 2020.

In 1993, the city approved Plan Winnipeg Toward 2010.

A map showed the city’s Major Open Space (MOS). Six of these spaces are part of the Seine River Greenway: Whittier Park, Lagimodiere-Gaboury Park, St. Boniface Golf Course, Windsor Park Golf Course, Niakwa Golf Course, and Bois-des-Esprits.

In 2000, the city approved Plan Winnipeg 2020 Vision. It stated: “The city shall retain those areas

designated as Major Open Space for recreational uses and the preservation of natural habitats.” The

intent was clear. These spaces would be protected forever.

This is what citizens expect. It is what citizens believed when they stood in front of bulldozers to save

the forest that became Bois-des-Esprits.

Winnipeg’s population is growing but we have less green space than many other cities. More people

used the Seine River Greenway this year than ever before. The pandemic reminded us that natural

spaces are vital to our well-being. In the future, we will need more green space – not less.

This fall, the city is poised to approve OurWinnipeg 2045. Unlike the plan from 20 years ago, it does not

state that MOS will be retained. It merely says that MOS will be shown on a map. The plan stresses an

urgent need for housing. It sets an “intensification target” and a policy to make development in built-up

areas easier. This puts MOS at great risk.

You must read the 180-page Complete Communities 2.0 to fully grasp what the future holds for MOS.

The preamble to the policies for MOS says they are important to the entire city. It recognizes that

people love these spaces for their beauty, natural features, and recreation. But, it points out that their

large size and character makes them very attractive for development. That is exactly why we need strong policy to protect MOS for the next 25 years.

Complete Communities 2.0 does not offer this protection. It does not state that MOS shall not be used

for other purposes. It does not say that conversion would require a unanimous vote at council. Instead,

it lays out the steps to convert MOS to other uses. Projects involving less than 2 acres can be “processed” on the basis of a report. No public consultation, public hearing, council vote?

This plan views our city’s biggest and best natural spaces as underutilized land that can be re-imagined

for housing – not as a lasting legacy to future generations.

Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital and the executive director for Save Our Seine (

In recognition of Save Our Seine’s inspiring work, Casera Credit Union presented two

awards to SOS at their annual general meeting on September 16, 2020.

The 2020 Casera Community Leadership Award was presented to Denis Gautron, the Past-

President of SOS (2012-2019). Over the years, Denis has spent countless hours leading the

Board through its decision-making, representing the organization in meetings and

negotiations with the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba and acting as a public-

school liaison and bilingual media and community spokesperson for SOS. Under his

leadership, SOS has grown and the Greenway has become a much-loved natural experience

for Winnipeggers of all ages. SOS is proud of the wonderful accomplishments of Denis and

congratulates him on the much-deserved recognition.

SOS also received the 2020 Casera Community Enrichment Award. Brent Thomas, CEO of

Casera Credit Union and Serena Streilein, Executive Assistant to the CEO, presented the

award. Laurie Ringeart, SOS President, and Anita Moyse, SOS Secretary, received the

award on behalf of SOS. The award is in tribute to SOS’s dedication and hard work in

protecting a historically significant yet neglected waterway in the St. Vital area.

Denis Gautron, Laurie Ringeart, and Anita Moyse with the Community Enrichment Award. Photo by Casera Credit Union.

Through community river cleanups, environmental advocacy, and public programming,

SOS has evolved into a respected environmental protector, campaigner, negotiator and

educator. SOS is grateful to Casera Credit union for their contributions totaling over $100,000 between

2007 and 2019 in support of community programs and events that foster leadership and

enhance our neighborhoods.

© 2020 Save Our Seine River Environment Incorporated