Wainfleet Rattlesnake Population Team Leader: Anne Yagi, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
The Wainfleet Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake population is highly isolated, being restricted to Wainfleet Bog (42°55'N, 79°18'E), a 1500 ha peatland, surrounded by roads and agricultural lands located near Port Colborne in the Niagara Region (Fig. 2). The next closest known population occurs about 100 km to the east in Bergen Swamp near Byron, New York.
To date, radio telemetry (radio transmitters implanted in rattlesnakes) has revealed critical information for the protection and persistence of this rattlesnake population. Forest, old field and tall shrub plant communities and peat areas are the primary habitats used by the Wainfleet rattlesnakes.
Factors limiting this population’s viability and growth have been: area drainage, past and present peat extraction, persecutions by humans, roads and isolation from other populations.
To ensure the survival and prevent extinction of the Wainfleet Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake population, the rattlesnake information has been incorporated into recovery efforts to assist in re-establishing a more natural bog ecosystem. On public lands, several peat canals in the interior of the bog have been blocked to maintain water at the site and to re-saturate the dry peat and facilitate bog plant growth. To enhance existing habitat, additional cover has also been provided with plantings of bog plant species. Brush piles have also been created to provide cover and additional foraging opportunities for rattlesnakes. As well, several openings have been created to provide basking areas within the protection and sanctity of the bog. Private landowners adjacent to the bog are also helping with several altering their ploughing practices and maintaining longer grass for rattlesnake cover and food. They also assist by reporting Rattlesnake sightings to the local authorities. In addition to these endeavours, local workshops have been held to share the facts on this shy snake with the public and to increase the awareness of this significant species.
Link on Wainfleet Bog Recovery Action: www.conservation-niagara.on.ca