Species profiles, Atlas Area Coordinators and much more

Can you name the species?

Click on the image or click here to find out.

Species profile

Were you able to identify the species in our fall newsletter? The correct answer is an Eastern Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis septentrionalis). This species has a slender, boldly striped body with a long tail. The dorsal colour is brown to black with three bright yellow to white stripes, and a rusty to brown stripe on scale rows one and two that extend to the edges of the ventral scales. The snake has a distinctive white to cream bar in front of its eye. This species has also been described as a Gartersnake in high definition, due to its clean, crisp lines.


Become an Atlas Area Coordinator!

We would like to expand the reach of the atlas across Ontario and are looking for new volunteer Atlas Area Coordinators (AACs). Working with Ontario Nature staff and partners, the AAC’s role is to support data collection efforts within a designated area and assist with promoting the atlas. The boundaries of the regions that each individual is assigned, as well as the specific duties and responsibilities, are flexible. Find out more about how to become an AAC here!


Snapping turtle hunt

As many of you are aware, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) proposed a new policy to limit, yet continue, the hunt of snapping turtles in Ontario. Ontario Nature, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Canadian Herpetological Society led a hugely popular campaign calling for the MNRF to end the hunt. Thank you to everyone who shared Ontario Nature’s petition through their networks, helping us to reach 5,635 signatures. The David Suzuki petition added more than 6,000 signatures. To learn more, read this blog which outlines the top five reasons to end the snapping turtle hunt. The opportunity for public comments closed on January 30, 2017. 

Reptile and amphibian training course on Beausoliel Island

If you are looking for training opportunities in 2017 the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Field Course may be a good fit. The course, held on Beausoliel Island in Georgian Bay Islands National Park at the end of May, provides training in reptile and amphibian field survey methodology for conservation professionals. It also covers reptile and amphibian identification, biology, habitat and other information that is necessary to plan and carry out effective surveys for these species. To learn more about the course, including how to register, click here. 

Be a nature hero today

Thank you for participating in the atlas – your help is vital to the success of our work! Today, we'd like to ask you to help nature in a new way, by becoming an Ontario Nature member. You'll join other nature heroes from your community and across Ontario, working to protect wild species and wild spaces. In thanks for all you work with the atlas, we are pleased to offer you a special $35 membership (normally $50) – and you'll receive our award-winning magazine, ON Nature! Join us today and be a nature hero in 2017! If you are already a member, thank you!


Figure 1. Migration corridor between Algonquin Provincial Park and Adirondacks State Park.

Figure 2. Number of observations for five species at risk (SAR) reptiles found during two and a half years of surveys on Highway 401 and the Thousand Islands Parkway and one year on Highway 2. 

Reptiles taking a hit

There are three parallel highways between Gananoque and Brockville that form an impenetrable barrier to landscape connectivity across the Frontenac Arch (Figure 1). This barrier has significant impacts on all wildlife, but most troubling is their deadly toll on reptiles.

As part of a 2-year project, Algonquin to Adirondacks (A2A) has been conducting road mortality studies, and associated hotspot and habitat modelling, on Highway 2 and Highway 401 in an effort to develop recommendations that will help restore connectivity across these highways. 

Road mortality studies are an important tool for identifying the impact of roads on wildlife populations, and are taking place across Ontario.

Results from the A2A road mortality studies identified five reptile species at risk dead on the three highways, and confirm that reptile populations are taking a hit, literally. So far, the dead among these species include: Snapping Turtle (232), Eastern Milksnake (63), Eastern Ribbonsnake (18), Blanding’s Turtle (14) and Gray Ratsnake (12) (Figure 2). These results represent two and a half years of study on Highway 401 and the Thousand Islands Parkway, and one year on Highway 2. This study will continue in 2017.

A2A is dedicated to restoring and protecting connectivity through the Frontenac Arch because it is the most important north-south migration corridor for wildlife in eastern North America. This corridor has the potential to connect two massive ‘core’ habitat areas: Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario and Adirondacks State Park in New York.

This project is funded by the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

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Images from top to bottom: Scott Gillingwater, Joe Crowley, Dana Buchbinder, Jason King, Camille Tremblay-Beaulieu, Nick Cairns, Ken Buchan