Blue racers are endangered in Canada and are sadly now only to be found on Pelee Island in Ontario. They are one of the largest snake species in Canada and, true to their name, can move up to speeds of 7 kilometres per hour. A large-scale collaborative effort to save Canada’s only blue snake is underway. WPC is working with a number of partners to better understand the threats to blue racer to conserve this beautiful species. Habitat loss threatens the remaining population of blue racers in Canada, but fortunately there are ways to restore habitat for racers and other wildlife that use the same mixed grassland/forest habitats. Hibernation sites and nesting structures have been created and we will continue to restore habitat for blue racer, and other grassland reliant species with a strong network of partners including Parks Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ontario Nature, the University of Toronto, Scales Nature Park, and Natural Resource Solutions Inc.
A major part of ongoing research will be to evaluate current and past efforts and encourage other organizations and private landowners to restore optimal habitat for blue racers on their properties. At the same time, this coalition of experts will be working together to learn more about the threats facing blue racers and carrying out actions to help them. These include:
- Surveys to estimate the current blue racer population size and distribution
- Research to guide actions to protect snakes from road mortality
- Studies to determine the genetic health of the population and inform whether the remaining blue racers will need supplemental releases from other populations to increase genetic diversity
- Partnering with local hunters to submit wild turkey crop samples for genetic analysis at Queen’s University and the African Lion Safari to find out the impact of turkey predation on young blue racers
- Multi-partner community outreach events to highlight the work being done and engage local partners in the conservation program.
All of this high priority conservation work, recommended by experts and governments alike, wouldn’t be possible without this collaboration, each partner bringing their own strengths to the effort to save Canada’s blue racers.
Hannah McCurdy Adams
Reptile and Amphibian Development Coordinator
Hannah is developing the national reptile and amphibian initiative for Wildlife Preservation Canada. She has worked with experts in the field of road ecology, physiology and genetics. Hannah has been involved in conservation projects for at-risk reptiles and amphibians in Canada for almost a decade.