An American visitor, apparently intent on snake-smuggling, had a change of heart recently while heading back to the United States from Windsor, Ontario.
A vehicle was seen dumping something near the entrance to the Windsor tunnel. It turned out the ‘dumpee’ was a snake. A passerby who witnessed the episode picked up the snake and gave it to Canadian border guards.
The guards, thinking it might be an exotic snake, turned it over to a Windsor veterinarian. The vet determined the snake was healthy and quite tame and while not exotic, it was a threatened species in Ontario. It was an Eastern Hog-nosed snake.
The Eastern Hog-nosed snake has long scales on its nose, giving it an upturned snout… hence the name. It lays its eggs and hibernates in sandy, well-drained habitats such as beaches and dry woods – but also needs access to wet areas such as swamps to hunt for frogs, toads and lizards.
While they’re dwindling in numbers, Eastern Hog-nosed snakes can be found in several provincial parks, including Rondeau. However, the kidnapped snake could not simply be taken to Rondeau and released.
As Emily Slavik – Rondeau’s Natural Heritage Education specialist – explains, snakes have a sort of ‘home range’ and the kidnapped Hog-nose might not survive if it was released far from its original home. Also, the snake likely came from a different genetic pool than Rondeau’s native Hog-nosed snakes, so releasing it into the wild could harm the local snake population.
Because Rondeau is an educational park that teaches visitors about the natural world around them, the snake’s new home will be the Rondeau Visitor Centre. It will take up residence there in late October.
Eastern Hog-nosed snakes are protected under Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. It is against the law to move them – or any other wild animals – into or out of our provincial parks. If you come upon a wild animal, leave it where it is. If you’re worried about it, call your local Ministry of Natural Resources office.
For more information about Eastern Hog-nosed snakes and other threatened species, you can visit the Species at Risk website.