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SECTION 3IDENTIFYING ONTARIO’S EASTERN MASSASAUGA
RATTLESNAKE AND ITS LOOK-ALIKES

Ontario has a greater variety of snake species than any other province in Canada. The province is home to 17 species of snakes, varying in form, habit, habitat and range. With such a variety of snakes at hand, the province’s scientists and residents have the opportunity to gather a wealth of information on snake biology. By learning how to identify snakes and other wildlife, people can help guarantee the protection of threatened species like the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.
 


 

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

Stewardship Quote

“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

– Rachel Carson


 

TELLING THE SNAKES APART

KNOWING WHICH SNAKE IS WHICH

One of the first steps in massasauga conservation is learning how to identify the rattlesnake. To do so requires that one learn how to identify other snakes sharing the same range as the rattlesnake.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake has similarities with four of Ontario’s non-venomous
snakes. The remaining 12 Ontario snake species are either striped or without pattern, and are thus not discussed in this booklet.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN YOU SEE A SNAKE:

  • the snake’s pattern: striped, blotches, or without pattern?
  • Is the tail pointed or blunt at the end?
  • What colour is the skin?
  • Is the skin rough or smooth?
  • How big is the snake?

If it is an adult snake with blotches or bands, then you know it must be one of the five species in Ontario with such markings: eastern massasauga rattlesnake, eastern fox, eastern milk, northern water, or eastern hognose snake.

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