Sun. Feb 25th, 2024
8 interesting facts about the snakes that live in Ontario

You might think that snakes are creatures of the night, slithering in the darkness, searching for prey and attacking when they find it.

But you would be wrong. Most of our snakes are active during the day, although the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, Milk Snake, and Ring-necked Snake come out at night.

Snakes are intriguing creatures, but they are among the least understood in nature.

Here are some interesting facts about snakes, courtesy of Kenton Otterbein, the chief naturalist at Killbear Provincial Park.

1. 17 different types of snakes call Ontario home

Blue racer snakeBlue racer snake

You can find snakes near the edges of forests, streams and rivers, in forests, on rocky slopes and in farmland, but how many snakes have you seen in your travels? Because snakes are so shy and well camouflaged, they are difficult to spot.

2. That’s right: Ontario snakes, even venomous ones, are shy creatures.

queen snakequeen snake

The vast majority of snakes are completely harmless to humans (the rattlesnake is an exception), but they scare most of us more than any other animal, which is interesting because snakes, including rattlesnakes, They are shy and will do everything possible to avoid them. contact with humans.

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When they feel threatened, milk snakes vibrate their tails, trying to look and sound like a venomous rattlesnake.

3. Snakes are not slimy

northern water snakenorthern water snake

Snake skin looks shiny, so people often assume snakes feel slimy, but in reality, their skin is soft and dry to the touch.

4. Most snakes fly alone (including baby snakes)

Most snakes (ring-necked snakes are an exception) only come together to mate in the spring and early summer. Then the male and female immediately go their separate ways.

Whether snakes give birth (like rattlesnakes, which produce up to 19 young) or lay eggs (like milk and ring-necked snakes), they are not maternal at all. Young people must fend for themselves.

5. Snakes are carnivorous

Eastern ribbon snakeEastern ribbon snake

They feed on voles, mice, lizards, frogs, tadpoles and bird eggs; sometimes even from other snakes. Some (like rattlesnakes) kill their prey with poison. Others (such as milk snakes) are constrictors that wrap their bodies around their prey and squeeze it until it suffocates. Still others (such as the eastern hognose snake) eat their prey live.

6. Snakes don’t chew their food.

Snakes do not have the right type of teeth for chewing, so they swallow their prey whole. A snake can consume prey that is three times the diameter of its head! A mouse can feed a snake for a week or more.

7. Milk snakes do not drink milk.

milk snakemilk snake

The milk snake got its name because farmers blamed it for causing their cows to dry out, but milk snakes don’t drink milk! They are attracted to barns because they find mice there.

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8. Rattlesnakes have heat vision.

Eastern Massasauga RattlesnakeEastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes have an additional sense that they use at night: heat sensors between their eyes and nostrils. This allows them to see thermal images of passing mice and voles.

Snakes need our help

Both eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes and milk snakes are threatened species. In addition to natural predators like fishermen and red-shouldered hawks, these snakes are often dying on our roads and their natural habitats are disappearing.

Snakes are an important part of our ecosystem and should never be killed.