Resources | Coastal Flora and Fauna
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake
Photo by Jory Mullen
The Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) is a medium sized snake (50 to 76 cm) with a thick body. The head is diamond shaped with white stripes along the jaw. Its stubby tail has a brown, segmented rattle.
The Massasauga inhabits just four areas in Ontario: eastern Georgian Bay area, the Bruce Peninsula, the Wainfleet bog, and the Ojibway Prairie Complex in Windsor. These populations are vulnerable to inbreeding and disease, and may be unable to recover from road mortalities or human persecution. If isolated populations decrease in size, they will continue to decline to extinction.
The Massasauga lives in a range of open habitats, where it hunts for small mammals and birds. It shifts its home range seasonally, spending the summer in dry, upland sites, and the rest of the year in swamps (forested wetlands). In winter, snakes hibernate underground in damp or even wet sites such as caves, tree root cavities, and animal burrows.
Habitat loss exerts a significant pressure on populations of the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, and occurs largely due to development activities. The Massasauga has highly specific habitat needs, and unlike some species cannot avoid development by relocating. Rock quarries/aggregate extraction, wetland drainage, and agricultural expansion disrupt the snake’s habitat and increase its risk of mortality.
Under Ontario's Endangered Species Act 2007, it is illegal to harass, capture, buy, sell, possess, or kill the Eastern Massasauga. This species is also protected under Ontario's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
Road mortality and direct persecution are also major threats to this snake.
An ever-increasing demand for homes and cottages has contributed greatly to habitat destruction and fragmentation.
How You Can Help:
Report poaching to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Call 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667) toll-free any time, or contact your local ministry office during regular business hours. You can also call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Report sightings to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Visit www.ontarionature.org for more information.
Leave snakes and their habitat alone. Inform others about the plight of the Eastern Massasauga.
Please remember that they are a legally protected species.
For more information about the Massasauga Rattlesnake please visit these reputable sources of information listed below. Be cautious of misinformation on the internet regarding the Massasauga and other reptiles.