At birth, eastern massasauga rattlesnakes
are already venomous and have the
ability to strike prey. These young snakes are small versions of
but lack a full rattle.
TO GESTATION SITES
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is negatively affected by the
gestation sites. These sites are crucial, since Ontario’s, short
summers make it
difficult for gravid females on their own to maintain the warm,
body temperatures needed for their young to develop successfully.
rattlesnakes often return to the same site, and since many
individuals often use one
site, the destruction of a single gestation site could impair the
of several females. This occurrence could, in turn, affect the
viability of an entire
population. Fortunately, gestation sites are readily identifiable,
and so people can
take steps to prevent them from being destroyed.
Hibernation is the only way that the eastern massasauga
rattlesnake can survive in
a cold climate. Cooler weather, and shorter days, act as cues for
start a seasonal migration. This migration is usually less than 1
km, as the snakes
move from their summer areas back to traditional hibernation
sites. Such sites may
be found in wet low-lying areas, swampy peatlands, dry woodlands,
or rocky areas.
As with all reptiles, cold
temperatures prevent snakes from regular activity and
proper digestion. They remain inactive during the winter, while
accumulated during the summer satisfy their limited energy
In the hibernaculum, the snake is
protected from freezing temperatures until spring
arrives. A hibernaculum is a cavity or burrow such as rock
fissures, holes along tree
roots, and crayfish or animal burrows that have access to high
humidity or under-ground
water. As the snake prepares for the long, cold winter its heart
causing a decreased intake of oxygen and an inability to feed for
the entire winter.
Although respiration and metabolism will become slow or may
temporarily halt, the
snake is neither sleeping nor deceased.
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