It was the end of April and lead project biologist Eric Jolin and his trusty field tech Josh Porter went to the eastern massasauga rattlesnake trapping site to check on the status of the fence and traps which have been used for site fidelity and translocation research since 2011. After trudging through the frozen landscape and sometimes thigh deep snow Eric and Josh finally reached the fence which had been built around a known hibernation site. It did not look like the traps would be able to be installed anytime soon. The area surrounding the fence, which would usually be moist and at many points submerged in water at that time of the year, was frozen and covered in deep snow.
The week of April 23rd-30th had an average temperature between 0 and 6 degrees during the day which didn’t allow for much snow melt, let alone any hopes of finding herpetofauna coming out of hibernation. The waiting game had begun, and all that could be done was general office work and inventory. Every day for the next two weeks they would venture out into the wet, snowy, cold hibernation site to install the traps in the few areas that would allow it. But that was okay because they were finally able to go pick up their field vehicle. The 2011 Dodge Caravan had been sitting all winter. It was to be their mighty steed that would carry them through thick and thin and it worked excellently…for the first day. The long winter had drained its battery and it had to be replaced, but that was only a minor hiccup compared to the eternal winter of 2018 in the greater Parry Sound area. At least the black flies were kept at bay…for the time being.
As the days warmed up and the traps were installed, hope arrived – in the form of a very cold green frog and red-backed salamander (who had been hiding inside the tarp which protected one of the traps.) Spring had arrived for about a day before summer temperatures showed up and the first massasauga rattlesnake was found. It was found in a different hibernation site in the area – she was a recapture and had been P.I.T tagged in years prior. The joy that Eric and Josh experienced with that capture made up for all the difficulties they had experienced in the past few weeks. Two more rattlesnakes were found that day and the warmth of the day, mixed with the observation, processing, and sheer beauty of the misunderstood snakes, reminded them of why they got into wildlife conservation in the first place.
Although it was a few weeks late, field season had finally begun.