Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake habitat in Ontario’s only venomous species, these are small snakes (to about 70 cm) with large dark blotches down the back and smaller blotches on the sides. Easily recognizable by the segmented rattle on the tail, which is used to warn possible predators away if sitting still and relying on its camoflage doesn’t work. This Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake will bite in self-defense as a last resort, often not injecting venom. They are usually found around Georgian Bay, where wetlands and rocky areas are nearby.
Two small remnant populations are located near Windsor (around Ojibway Prairie) and Port Colbourne (in Wainfleet Bog). Massasaugas feed on mice, voles, and other small mammals. Like all rattlesnakes, massasaugas give birth to live young, which are born with fully functional venom glands. They are designated as threatened in Ontario, and are endangered throughout much of their range in the United States.
There have only been two human deaths from rattlesnake bites in Ontario- bee stings and lightning strikes both kill more people every year. The last death in Ontario due to a bite from a massasauga was 40 years ago. On average, about four people are bitten by rattlesnakes in Ontario each year, usually on their feet. Please wear shoes and long pants when you’re in rattlesnake habitat. If you are bitten, don’t panic, but do go to the hospital.
Massasauga rattlesnakes have been wiped out from much of their historical range in Ontario. Recovery efforts are under way to help ensure their survival. Sadly, one snake species, the Timber Rattlesnake has been extirpated from Ontario. It used to be found along the Niagara escarpment. They were largely eliminated by the late 1800’s, and the last one was seen in 1941 near Niagara Falls.