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At first we just stared at it, not believing our good fortune. We knew these snakes inhabited the area along Georgian Bay and that sightings have been made on the Bruce Peninsula. Still, it is not often that you have the opportunity to see a wild animal in its natural habitat and we wanted to savour the moment. We knelt down and moved a little closer, all the time remaining very aware that this is a venomous reptile. For my husband it was the size and shape that was a surprise. He thought they would be much longer and sleeker more like the Diamondback that can reach over six feet in length. This rattler was perhaps two feet long, and fat! Massasaugas are thick-bodied snakes and their maximum length is just over three feet.

We had perhaps a minute more to take a look at a reptile that is much maligned, misunderstood and increasingly rare. Just before it slipped away we snapped a picture. It was a great moment, one my husband and I will long remember. I had never before observed a massasauga in the wild. It is a very different viewing, one that creates excitement and respect. The snake is venomous but this is a non-aggressive animal with a built-in warning mechanism. If left alone this animal will retreat, but the chances of actually seeing one are rare. But we did. We got lucky.



The Eastern Georgian Bay shoreline, blessed with numerous islands and a diverse interior habitat, represents the largest land area where the eastern massasauga rattlesnake may be found. The area is comprised of mixed forests, extensive areas of exposed bedrock, and an abundance of wetlands, including marshes, swamps, fens, and bogs. Despite the large area, many massasauga populations in this region are under threat and in danger of declining.


National and provincial Parks offer some protection for rattlesnakes.

These parks include:

  • Killarney Provincial Park

  • Killbear Provincial Park

  • Six Mile Lake Provincial Park

  • Oastler Lake Provincial Park

  • Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park

  • Awenda Provincial Park

  • Grundy Lake Provincial Park

  • French River Provincial Park

  • Massasauga Provincial Park

  • Georgian Bay Islands National Park of Canada

Exposed bedrock along Georgian Bay.

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