Hello, from the Georgian Bay massasauga team! We have had a very interesting and productive month with the advance of summer weather, and are pleased to announce that the project has been going wonderfully.
The purpose of this study is to determine specific site fidelity characteristics of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake and the possibilities of successfully relocating them to an area that is further away and safer than their current site.
Massasaugas are notorious for imprinting on a specific hibernation site (also known as a hibernaculum), and using that space to overwinter for the rest of their lives. That is why it is important when you come across one of these snakes that it doesn’t get moved too far away, or it might not be able to find its way back to its original hibernaculum.
In 2016 and 2017 the lead project biologist Michael Colley released neonate (newborn baby) massasauga rattlesnakes into different possible hibernacula in hopes of successfully overwintering them away from their parents’ site. To identify these snakes in the future he painted the “button” (essentially the first part of the rattle that develops) on the neonates from 2016 gold, and the button on the 2017 neonates yellow. Upon surveying these hibernacula we have found that many of these neonates have successfully overwintered at their new sites, which is excellent. In fact on one day we found 7 (all with painted buttons) hanging out within a few meters of each other! We even managed to find a neonate from 2016 at another translocation site. That means that this little guy managed to successfully overwinter for the past two winters!
As the weather gets warmer and the season progresses, the adult snakes will finish moving out of their hibernacula and into different gestation spots to keep themselves warm while they are “gravid” (pregnancy for snakes). The adult snakes from the original hibernation site have all had their rattles painted blue upon recapture and we hope to see them soon – very plump and full of babies!
– By Josh Porter
You can check out a short clip of one of our adult snakes rattling its painted blue tail below.