Massasauga rattlesnake overwintering in an artificial hibernaculum. One of twelve rattlesnakes overwintered in 2022-23, all of which survived. Photo: Kathleen Woodhouse
WPC’s OPRREC team continued its spring and summer monitoring activities at Ojibway Prairie in 2023, while expanding surveys into other areas of Windsor-Essex. As part of Butler’s gartersnake recovery activities, our team continued to intensively monitor two subpopulations at the Ojibway Prairie and another two inhabiting natural habitat corridors in a more heavily urbanized area. We also surveyed 11 other areas across Essex County in an effort to reconfirm historical observations of Butler’s gartersnakes. We are thankful to the Essex Region Conservation Authority, a member of the OPRREC Working Group, who provided permission to survey many of their properties. The OPRREC team was able to confirm the presence of at least one SAR reptile species at 4 of the 11 sites, including Butler’s gartersnakes at 1 site.
This summer, our team took some important steps in our efforts to improve snake translocation techniques. In preparation for massasauga translocations we conducted a trial release with four eastern gartersnakes, and applied a suite of potentially beneficial translocation tactics. The snakes were surgically implanted with radio transmitters, which will allow the team to monitor their movement behaviour, site fidelity, and overwinter survival. This information will help guide our choice of specific tactics to use during massasauga translocations. We owe many thanks to Dr. Kate Sweetman of the Downtown Veterinary Hospital, in Windsor, who conducted surgeries, as well as Dr. Anthony Braithwaite who provided assistance. Also this summer, we completed our first trial release of a small number of juvenile Butler’s gartersnakes, which were marked with small microchips (PIT tags). Our automatic PIT readers will tell us if any snakes return to the release sites to hibernate.