The Eastern Foxsnake commonly attains lengths of 91–137 cm. Adults usually lack any distinct patterns or conspicuous markings on the head, and head colouration varies from brown to reddish. The dorsum is patterned with bold, dark brown or black blotches on a yellowish background that alternate with smaller, dark blotches on the sides. The ventral scutes are most often yellow and strongly checkered with black. The scales are weakly keeled and the anal scale is divided. Juveniles have a lighter ground colour (commonly grey), lighter blotches bordered in black, a transverse line anterior to the eyes, and a dark line extending from the eye to angle of jaw on each side. The dark lines on the head of juveniles fade with age, and are usually quite faint in adults. (Updated 2017/05/29)
The global distribution of the Eastern Foxsnake is restricted to the Great Lakes region of North America. Approximately 70% of the species’ range is in Ontario, Canada with relatively small distributions in Michigan and Ohio, USA. Within Ontario, the species’ distribution is highly disjunct, occupying three discrete regions along the Lake Erie-Lake Huron waterway shoreline. The three regional populations from south to north are (1) Essex-Kent, (2) Haldimand-Norfolk, and (3) Georgian Bay Coast. (Updated 2017/05/29)
Eastern Foxsnakes in the Essex-Kent and Haldimand-Norfolk regions use mainly unforested, early successional vegetation communities (e.g., old field, prairie, marsh, dune-shoreline) as habitat during the active season. Hedgerows bordering farm fields and riparian zones along drainage canals are regularly used. In some areas of intensive farming, these linear habitat strips likely make up the bulk of habitat available for foxsnakes.
The populations of the Georgian Bay Coast predominantly use open habitats along shorelines (e.g., coastal rock barrens and meadow marshes) as habitat during the active season. The foxsnakes inhabiting this coastline do not venture far inland, restricting the majority of their activity to within 150 m of the water. (Updated 2017/05/29)
Emergence from hibernation generally occurs from mid-April to mid-May, mating occurs from late May to mid-June, and egg laying occurs from late June to mid-July. Retreat into hibernacula occurs in September and October. Eastern Foxsnakes of the Georgian Bay Coast use much more space than those in Essex-Kent: on average, Georgian Bay females disperse 3.5 times farther from their hibernacula.
Predators of Eastern Foxsnakes include the larger birds of prey and carnivorous mammals such as raccoon and fisher. Small mammals and birds make up the bulk of the Eastern Foxsnake’s diet. Both active searching and ambush (sit-and-wait) foraging strategies are employed.
Eastern Foxsnakes can adapt to limited anthropogenic disturbance, an example being their use of human-made structures for shelter during the summer despite high levels of human activity. (Updated 2017/05/29)
The threats facing Eastern Foxsnakes in Ontario remain roughly the same as those identified in the previous status report: namely, habitat loss and degradation, road effects, other inadvertent effects caused by human activities, and intentional persecution by humans. (Updated 2017/05/29)
The Eastern Foxsnake, Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).
More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
The Eastern Foxsnake commonly attains lengths of 91–137 cm. Adults usually lack any distinct patterns or conspicuous markings on the head, and head colouration varies from brown to reddish. The dorsum is patterned with bold, dark brown or black blotches on a yellowish background that alternate with smaller, dark blotches on the sides. The ventral scutes are most often yellow and strongly checkered with black. The scales are weakly keeled and the anal scale is divided. Juveniles have a lighter ground colour (commonly grey), lighter blotches bordered in black, a transverse line anterior to the eyes, and a dark line extending from the eye to angle of jaw on each side. The dark lines on the head of juveniles fade with age, and are usually quite faint in adults.
Eastern Foxsnake – Carolinian population
The species was considered a single unit and designated Threatened in April 1999 and May 2000. Split into two populations in April 2008. The Carolinian population was designated Endangered in April 2008. Last assessment based on an update status report.
Eastern Foxsnake – Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population
The species was considered a single unit and designated Threatened in April 1999 and May 2000. Split into two populations in April 2008. The Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population was designated Endangered in April 2008. Last assessment based on an update status report.
In this region, the species swims long distances often in cold, rough open water where it is subject to mortality due to increasing boat traffic. It is uniquely vulnerable to habitat loss because it is confined to a thin strip of shoreline where it must compete with intense road development and habitat modification due to recreational activities. The species’ habitat is undergoing increasing fragmentation as development creates zones that are uninhabitable.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Eastern Foxsnake (Carolinian population) and the Eastern Foxsnake (Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population) (henceforth referred to as the Eastern Foxsnake (Carolinian and Great Lakes/St. Lawrence populations) and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Ministers to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). A single document has been prepared to address the recovery of the two Eastern Foxsnake populations (Carolinian and Great Lakes/St. Lawrence) under SARA. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (now the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the Eastern Foxsnake Carolinian and Georgian Bay populations (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Parks Canada Agency. In this federal addition, “Georgian Bay population” has been replaced by the term “Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population” because that is how the species is listed under SARA, and these terms may be used interchangeably. The Province of Ontario also led the development of the attached Government Response Statement (Part 3), which is the Ontario Government’s policy response to its provincial recovery strategy and summarizes the prioritized actions that the Ontario Government intends to take and support.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park (GBINP) is located in southeastern Georgian Bay in the heart of Ontario’s cottage country. Georgian Bay is home to the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, the 30,000 Islands, and the park acts as a southern gateway into this area. Comprising 63 dispersed islands and shoals the total area of the park is 14 km2 from the Centennial Group in the south to McQuade Island 50 kilometres northward. Situated just 150 km from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), GBINP is within a half-day’s drive for millions of Canadians. Created in 1929 it is Canada’s smallest national park straddling two natural regions and forms a core protected area of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. The park lies on the edge of the Canadian Shield and is home to both northern and southern plants and animals. The islands are renowned for the variety of reptiles and amphibians they support. The park also has significant cultural value, having been occupied continuously for over 5,500 years.
Maintenance and restoration of ecological integrity is the first priority of national parks (Canada National Parks Act s.8(2)). Species at risk, their residences, and their habitat are therefore protected by existing national park regulations and management regimes. In addition, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) prohibitions protecting individuals and residences apply automatically when a species is listed, and all critical habitat in national parks and national historic sites must be legally protected within 180 days of being identified.
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments conducted pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.
As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.
Please submit your comments by
March 20, 2009 for species undergoing normal consultations
March 19, 2010 for species undergoing extended consultations.
Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances.
Last update March 31, 2017