Figure 1. “Prairie”, our first eastern massasauga of 2019! Can you see the rattle paint that is still visible from 2017?

The Ojibway Prairie Reptile Recovery Team has some shocking news! On May 27th, 2019 we finally found our first massasauga of the season – 2019 is the first year in seven years that zero massasaugas were found in April or early May, despite almost daily intensive surveys. This video features our Lead Biologist’s race to field to meet the survey team who found the snake. Hopefully this gives you a sense of how excited we are to have found this elusive rattlesnake and how dedicated we are to the recovery of this species.

We identified the snake in the video by dorsal scale patterns and the little bit of left-over rattle paint that you can see in Figure 1. The scale pattern on the dorsal or upper side of the body is unique to each individual, so we can compare photos to identify snakes we have previously encountered. In Figure 2 you can see the unique blotches that helped us identify this Massasauga as “Prairie”, a healthy three-year-old female.  (Want to see how we “process” a Massasauga? Click here to check out our Youtube channel for more videos).

Figure 2. The circled blotches are unique patterns that helped us identify Prairie.

Despite all the excitement, we fear that Prairie might be the last Ojibway massasauga we encounter in the wild. The fate of this population now relies almost entirely on captive breeding and reintroduction – inherently costly endeavors.   

Jennifer Barden, 

Lead Field Technician – Ojibway Prairie Reptile Recovery