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Snakes in the biosphere

The Frontenac Arch is lucky to host a variety of snake species. Some species are common across Ontario such as garter snakes, eastern ribbon snakes, and water snakes. Other species are rarer such as the gray rat snake and the eastern hog-nosed snake. 


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Caption: Gray rat snake in a tree. The gray rat snake is a semi-arboreal snake meaning it climbs trees!

 

 

Snakes play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping rodent populations from becoming too high. None of the snake species in the Frontenac Arch area are venomous so when you see a snake in the biosphere you can observe them safely. The only venomous snake in Ontario is the endangered Massasauga rattlesnake which is only found on the eastern coast of Georgian Bay. 

When you are lucky enough to see a snake in the wild it is best to leave it alone and observe from a distance. Trying to pick up snakes can be stressful on the snake and could lead to a snake biting you in self-defense. 9 of Ontario’s 17 snake species are species at risk and as a result, we need to help protect the snakes that remain in the ecosystem. 

To help snakes in the Frontenac Arch you can:

  • Be vigilant while driving and drive the speed limit to avoid hitting a snake 
  • When safe to do so you can encourage snakes not to spend time on roads by gently shooing them off the road by gently tapping them on the tail with a stick
  • As dogs can bite snakes out of curiosity, keeping your dog on a leash when in natural areas is important for their safety and for the safety of snakes 
  • If you are really keen to help snakes you can build nest boxes for species such as the gray rat snake, see: http://www.lgstewardship.ca/gray-ratsnake-nesting-box-program-protocol.html  

To interact with snakes in a way that is safe for you and the snake you can visit snakes at local reptile zoos such as the Indian river reptile zoo near Peterborough (COVID-19 may affect opening hours). Having the opportunity to hold one of Ontario’s 16 non-venomous species of snakes at a zoo or reptile center is an excellent way to reduce the fear of snakes in children and in adults. Seeing the snakes of the Frontenac Arch in their native habitat can be an exciting experience for all ages!

Snake identification guide: https://www.thelandbetween.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Quick-Snake-ID-Sheet-1.pdf