Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Today’s post comes from Megan Loucks, discovery leader at Pinery Provincial Park.

If you explore Pinery’s Old Ausable Canal, you may see a variety of fish swimming, water lilies floating in the sun, or even a beaver crouching in its shelter.

However, we have recently received reports of a large reptilian creature swimming just below the surface.

The reptile that has gone viral

A photo has circulated on social media showing a very large snake on a log along the canal.

Water Snake

This photo has caused many questions and concerns about what may be lurking beneath the water’s surface. This “monster” has been identified as a northern water snake, a common species in Ontario.

There are many questions surrounding this species of snake, and many visitors are concerned about spending time in and around water.

Let’s review some myths and facts about this species so you can once again enjoy the Old Ausable Channel that you love.

Myth or Reality?

That’s not a water snake; Someone let their pet anaconda loose in the Old Ausable Canal!


This is a photo of a northern water snake.

It can be identified by its horizontal brown or reddish-brown bands on its back and sides. Although their size may be unpleasant, it is abnormal for these snakes to grow so large, but it is not unheard of.

Water SnakeHere is a photo of another water snake.

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Pinery has a healthy population of northern water snakes; most adults range between 60 and 110 cm in length, but some can become much larger.

Myth or Reality?

The northern watersnake is the largest snake we have in Ontario.


The gray rat snake is the largest snake species in Ontario, stretching up to 2.5 meters in length.

This species is not found in Pinery. Their range extends along the eastern edge of Ontario, and gray rat snakes are listed as an at-risk species.

Myth or Reality?

That photo is fake. I have been to Pinery many times and have never seen anything like it.


Although this photo does not have a scale to demonstrate how large the snake is, park staff have been able to confirm sightings of a northern water snake of this size in the old Ausable Channel.

snake eating fish

The size of this snake is an indicator of a healthy ecosystem. It tells us that there is a healthy food source of fish and amphibians for this snake in the canal.

Myth or Reality?

Northern water snakes are aggressive and often approach swimmers.


Northern water snakes are not aggressive and will only bite if provoked or handled.

They are known to be curious animals and may approach swimmers to investigate the origin of ripples in the water. However, once they are close enough to smell the source of the disturbance and rule out the possibility of food, they will retreat and leave the swimmer alone.

Myth or Reality?

Northern water snakes are nonvenomous and pose no threat to humans.

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Northern water snakes are completely harmless to humans. They are not poisonous and only bite if provoked.

In fact, humans pose a greater threat to northern water snakes than they do to us. Habitat loss, road mortality, water pollution, and human persecution are threats to the northern water snake population.

Myth or Reality?

Northern water snakes are fascinating and misunderstood creatures that are uniquely adapted for life in and near water.


Northern water snakes are excellent swimmers.

They can be found up to three meters below the water surface when hunting for fish, amphibians and other prey, although they are usually found swimming along the surface.

swimming water snake

These water snakes can be found up to a few kilometers from the coast. When close to shore, they are great climbers, allowing them to find basking spots on the low branches of trees above or near the water’s edge.

They’re not that scary, right?

Although this large reptile may make you feel a little uncomfortable on your next visit to Pinery, you have nothing to worry about.

These snakes are completely harmless.

As you paddle along the Old Ausable Channel this season, keep an eye out for northern water snakes sunning themselves on fallen branches. They are amazing creatures and a very exciting sight!