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Whether you’re camping in the beautiful eastern Georgian Bay area, enjoying the scenery of the Bruce Peninsula, exploring the Wainfleet bog, or learning about the Ojibway Prairie region in Windsor, you are in massasauga country. Your chances of seeing a rattlesnake are remote, since they are relatively shy and will often hide from view to avoid being detected. A rattlesnake’s first response is to lie motionless, relying on its cryptic pattern to prevent detection. When the snake does not feel threatened, it will let the danger pass without revealing its location. Depending on the situation and on the snake, a rattlesnake may warn you of its presence by rattling its tail. If given room and time, the snake will move away into nearby cover.


By being aware of your surroundings, and following certain safety precautions, you can enjoy the beauty of Ontario’s out-of-doors, while safely sharing habitat with the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.


  1. Learn to identify Ontario snakes, and to distinguish the eastern
    massasauga rattlesnake from other snakes that resemble it.
    Children can also be taught to identify the massasauga;

  2. Wear protective footwear (such as hiking boots that cover the
    ankles) and long, loose fitting pants, especially when hiking in open
    rocky areas or places where vision may be obscured, such as in long
    grass or at night;

  3. DO NOT pick up snakes or other wild animals. This act is the most
    common cause of bites;

  4. Do not harass, chase or threaten a snake. This act is the second most common cause of bites. Most importantly, never kill a massasauga rattlesnake, which is unnecessary, dangerous, and illegal due to its protected status;

  5. Always watch where you are putting your feet and hands. Poke around with a stick before reaching into brush, under rocks, or into dark places where snakes may be hiding;

  6. If you hear a rattlesnake, STAY CALM! Stop walking, and then determine the snake’s location. Slowly move away from the snake and give it room to also move away;

  7. Keep pets on leashes; curious pets at large are more often the victims of snakebites than people;

  8. If you come across a snake, the best advice is to enjoy the unique encounter but observe it from a safe distance and try not to disturb the snake.

Massasauga relying on its cryptic
colouration to remain hidden
in the leaves.

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