Ojibway Prairie Reptile Recovery
In 2013 we began implementing conservation actions recommended in the Recovery Strategy for the Massasauga in Canada (see Resources). Our focus was on population monitoring, threat assessment, and an analysis of the feasibility of population recovery. In 2015 we launched the Ojibway Prairie Reptile Recovery program (OPRREC), in order to greatly expand our previous work, establish a reptile recovery working group (see Program Partners), and begin addressing important challenges identified in the feasibility study (see Resources). Since that time, we have been busy working with our partners to enhance critical habitat, mitigate threats, conduct public outreach, protect and connect habitat, and prepare for long-term population augmentation using techniques such as conservation breeding and translocation. A robust monitoring regime will allow us to evaluate the success of our various recovery projects and to adapt techniques as required.
- Investment of over 1000 person–hours in the field annually in order to monitor reptile populations, assess threats and increase surveillance of key habitat features.
- Submission of 100-200 Species at Risk observations each year to provincial databases, therefore increasing habitat protection.
- Surveying of over 1000 km of roads annually to document road mortality hotspots and guide mitigation projects. We installed over 375m of barrier fencing annually since 2016 in order to prevent reptile road mortality.
- Ongoing enhancement within 9ha of Massasauga habitat via removal of invasive plants and creation of over 100 woody debris structures for Massasauga shelter and gestation (birthing). We confirmed that pregnant female Massasaugas used the artificial gestation sites we created in every year since 2015.
- Delivery of over 340 Massasauga stewardship packages and 500 outreach door hangers to local residents and reaching dozens of park users per year via opportunistic outreach efforts. With the help of our partners, we installed 6 Massasauga habitat signs and 1 interpretive panel at a local park, and 8 wildlife crossing signs on local roads at roadkill hotspots.
- Helping to designate the 24km2 Ojibway Prairie Complex and Greater Park Ecosystem (OPCGPE) in Ontario’s Windsor-LaSalle region as an “Important Amphibian and Reptile Area” by the Canadian Herpetological Society (see Resources).
- Identification of suitable Massasauga hibernation habitat within a provincial park, to inform where future releases could take place.
- Initiating the permitting process at the local, provincial and federal levels to secure the permissions needed to begin long-term population augmentation using captive-bred snakes.
Choquette, J., M. Macpherson, and R. Corry. 2020. Identifying Potential Connectivity for an Urban Population of Rattlesnakes (Sistrurus catenatus) in a Canadian Park System. Land 2020, 9, 313.
Choquette, J., and L. Valliant. 2016. Road mortality of reptiles and other wildlife at the Ojibway Prairie Complex and Greater Park Ecosystem in southern Ontario. The Canadian Field-Naturalist 130 (1): 64-75.
Choquette, J., and E. Jolin. 2018. Checklist and status of the amphibians and reptiles of Essex County, Ontario: a 35 year update. The Canadian Field-Naturalist 132 (2): 176-190.
- Massasauga Ontario Government Response Statement
- Recovery Strategy For the Massasauga in Canada (2013)
- Feasibility of Recovering the Ojibway Prairie Population: Executive Summary
- Recovery Strategy for the Massasauga in Ontario (2017)
- Important Reptile and Amphibian Areas: OPCGPE (2017)
- Toronto Zoo Adopt-A-Pond Program: Snake Resources