Canadian government spending $300K to save Ontario’s only rattlesnake

Massasauga Rattler

The provincial and federal governments are investing $300,000 in funding to save the massasauga rattler, Ontario’s only rattlesnake.

Wildlife Preservation Canada, a non-profit organization committed to conservation and captive breeding issues in Canada, has secured $100,000 a year for the next three years to put toward emergency and long-term recovery programs for the rattlesnake.

The species, which is usually 50 to 70 centimetres long with a triangular head and vertical (cat-like) pupils, is listed as an endangered species in Southern Ontario, and as a threatened species in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region. It is Ontario’s only venomous snake, though it will only bite in self-defence if it feels threatened.

The emergency program will take place in the Ojibway Prairie Remnants in Windsor and the nearby suburb of LaSalle. There are only about a dozen massasauga rattlers left in the area; a healthy population would be in the hundreds.

“It’s really in an emergency state right now,” said Jonathan Choquette, of the OPR Reptile Recovery Program, in an interview with the CBC. “One bad event, one bad winter, could wipe them all out.”

Massasauga rattler deaths are typically caused by road mortality, habitat destruction, and persecution by humans. The funding will go towards reducing major threats to the species, and to monitor what else might be negatively impacting the snake’s habitat and population. Steps to enhance the rattlesnake’s habitat may include putting up fencing and/or buying property in the surrounding area to limit people’s impact on the species.