Reptiles at Risk

Joe and the Queensnake
Joe Crowley with a Queensnake

The purpose of Ontario Nature's Reptiles at Risk program is to identify populations of at-risk reptiles in and around Ontario Nature's nature reserves in Grey and Bruce counties and to map important habitat for these species. Currently, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) list 18 of Ontario's 25 species of reptiles as Endangered, Threatened or of Special Concern. Grey and Bruce counties are inhabited by several of these species. Click here to learn more about these species.

Ongoing work

Field surveys for at-risk reptiles were carried out during the spring, summer, and fall of 2008 in and around Ontario Nature's six nature reserves in Grey and Bruce Counties. These surveys were conducted to identify important habitat for reptiles at risk in the reserves, as well as any potential threats that may be affecting these populations.

These surveys identified 11 populations of at-risk reptiles in the six nature reserves. Four of these populations were already known to occur in the reserves, while the other seven species had not yet been documented.

All at-risk reptile observation data has been submitted to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. This data will help to improve our knowledge of the regional distributions of these species in Grey and Bruce counties and inform species at risk planning and management. Ontario Nature staff will also begin to conduct reptile surveys in additional nature reserves in other parts of the province to improve our knowledge of reptile species occurrence in our network of 21 nature reserves throughout Ontario.

Ontario Nature has undertaken an outreach campaign to increase general awareness and appreciation of reptiles. If you are interested in receiving outreach materials or attending a presentation on reptiles at risk, please contact John Urquhart, our staff ecologist:johnu@ontarionature.org.

Reptile Road Mortality in Grey and Bruce Counties

Incidence of road mortality observed in Grey and Bruce counties during this study only represent a small fraction of the annual road mortality affecting those populations -- several species of at-risk reptiles were observed dead on the road during 2008 field work. Given how often dead reptiles are found on roads, it is most likely that road mortality is contributing to population declines in many areas.

Road mortality is most concerning on the northern Bruce Peninsula, where a network of protected areas supports one of the last large populations of massasauga rattlesnakes in Ontario. Despite extensive habitat protection, this species is being killed regularly on roads, and road mortality is probably one of the most serious threats continuing to face this population.

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