Slithering into fall: hibernation for Ontario’s reptiles

Today’s post was written by seasonal student Heather Van Den Diepstraten from Rondeau Provincial Park.

It’s not just students and birds on the move this fall.

As the cold weather approaches, reptiles are trekking across Rondeau Provincial Park in search of hibernacula (places in which wildlife overwinter). Researchers for Wildlife Preservation Canada are busy tracking the movements of snakes, turtles, and skinks within the park as they find suitable habitat for their hibernation.

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Reptile Day at Rondeau Provincial Park

For the past two years, Rondeau Provincial Park hosted “Turtle Day.” But that left out many of our coolest cold-blooded critters!

This year, we’re expanding Turtle Day to appreciate ALL of our unique reptile species, from snakes to skinks.

Reptile Day unfolds this Saturday, August 22. Meet us at the Bayside picnic shelter at 10:00 AM.
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Road to conservation

Guest Blogger: Sean Boyle 

Growing up, I spent quite a bit of my time wandering through the woods, and exploring – looking at flowers, flipping logs, catching insects and watching them in a clear bucket – the type of thing many children do.  As I worked my way through university, I realized that there was more to nature than being a naturalist and as I begun to be exposed to wildlife biology I realized that this was the path I wanted to follow. When I headed off to graduate school, and was offered the opportunity to take the lead on a project involving reptile and amphibian conservation in Presqu’ile Provincial Park, in addition to my mammal work, I was thrilled.  For someone as interested in conserving the biodiversity that I grew up loving, reptiles and amphibians couldn’t have been a better fit – they are after all, two of the most imperiled groups of animals on the entire planet!  Reptiles and amphibians are two of the most diverse classes of animals in the world. Sadly however, they are also experiencing among the fastest extinction rates on the planet.

Blanding's Turtle Photo Credit: Sean Boyle

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The amazing but common snake of Ontario

On our way to Restoule Provincial Park, Anna said “I think that was a snake on the road.”

“Let’s go back and check it then,” I responded.

“It looks like a gartersnake,” she said as we got closer.

We stopped anyway.  We wanted to be sure it wasn’t one of it’s rarer cousins.

*     *     *

There are 17 snake species in Ontario.  Many of them are rare, but the Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) is the most widely distributed snake in North America.  Because of its large distribution, sometimes it’s easy to think “It’s just a gartersnake.”  But we should not forget how amazing these reptiles are!

Holding the Eastern Garter snake this way causes less stress/injury.

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