Sciensational Sssnakes!!

Conservation Through Education

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Conservation Connection- The Upcoming Season

Here's another article of mine from an Ontario Herpetological Society newsletter a few years back, along the same theme- getting people who are interested in captive reptiles to broaden their horizons to include wild populations as well!

There hasn’t been a lot happening in the field since the last issue, so this will be a brief article. The snow is disappearing rapidly here in Toronto, though, and some field work will likely begin by the time you are reading this.

I did get one chance at winter herping in Ontario, observing mudpuppies (Necturus maculosus) with Fred Scheuler and some Ottawa Amphibian and Reptile Association (OARA) members. It was very interesting, and I would encourage everyone to try it out next year. Be sure to read Fred’s article in this issue for more details. I am optimistic that a site may be found in southern Ontario where similar mudpuppy behaviour may be observed. If anyone has any ideas on where to look, please let me know.

With respect to education programs, I have been tasked to create a brief set of guidelines for OHS participation in reptile displays. I will have something ready for the rest of the executive soon, but feel free to send me any thoughts you might have on the subject. Speaking of education, the OHS has been asked to provide displays at several events this spring and summer. If you would like to help educate the public about herps (conservation issues and captive care) at any of these events, please contact me. There are also opportunities to help out with some educational programs put on by other organizations around the province. If you can’t make it to an OHS event, why not volunteer for the OARA, Little Ray’s, Indian River, Sciensational Ssnakes!! (yes, that one’s mine and Jenny’s), or any other program. Anything that can be done to reach the public will help our conservation goals.

Congratulations and thanks to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (, which raises money for land acquistion and protection. They have just completed the purchase of critical eastern spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera) nesting habitat in Quebec, along the shore of Lake Champlain. The Nature Conservancy still needs funds to help with the purchase of Clear Creek Forest here in Ontario’s Carolinian Zone near Chatham. In a region which has most of its forest cover, Clear Creek Forest provides a home to many species of reptiles and amphibians, some of which are designated as ‘Species At Risk’. If you can help out, please do so.

The Pelee Island activities will start soon, and there is a trip planned for May 19-21. At least 20 people have already expressed interest in going, though many of those are not club members. We will depart around 5:00AM Saturday from Toronto in order to make the 10:00AM ferry. This will allow those coming from farther afield to get to Toronto Friday after work. Transportation to and from Toronto may be available.

In case you’ve missed the last couple of issues, while we’re on the Island we will be working on the pond that was begun last fall, restoring prairie habitat, and creating microhabitat structures for snakes. We will also get out in the field each day to search for blue racers (Coluber constrictor), fox snakes (Elaphe gloydii), Lake Erie water snakes (Nerodia sipedon insularum), Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingi) and lots more. On a single good day last June we saw 9 species of reptiles! We will leave the island on the Monday afternoon ferry and be back in Toronto by about 10:00PM. Limited accommodations may be available in the Toronto area for those who would need them. Also, there is an earlier ferry for those who are traveling long distances. We still have room for more on this fabulous herping trip!

The spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) survey running this spring will occur on weekends throughout April and early May. Contact Steve Marks ( to get involved.

Things are looking good for the Toronto pond and hibernaculum project, and I will hopefully soon have the funding approvals to allow us to proceed. If you have a project in mind that will benefit herps or their habitat, why not apply for some funding? Many sources exist at the non-profit level, but even individuals or small groups can apply to the MNR’s Community Fish and Wildlife Involvement Program (CFWIP) for up to $4,000 annually, or to Canada Trust’s Friends of the Environment Program for up to $10,000 on a per project basis. Anyone who wishes to undertake a project like this is welcome to contact me for advice and assistance.

There are also some interesting field projects coming up this summer in eastern Ontario, for anyone who wants to travel in that direction. I recommend contacting the OARA ( for more information.

The season is almost upon us, folks, and I hope that everyone will get involved in these or other reptile and amphibian conservation projects in Ontario. If you have any questions or ideas relating to this column, conservation activities, or legislation, please e-mail me at or write to the OHS mailbox.

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 9:25 PM | Comments (1)  


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