Species Profile

Massasauga Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population

Scientific Name: Sistrurus catenatus
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2012
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.


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Related Species

Species COSEWIC
Status
SARA
Status
Massasauga Non-active Threatened

Quick Links: | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

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Protection

Federal Protection

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

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.

7 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Massasauga Sistrurus catenatus in Canada (2013)

    The Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) is a relatively small, thick-bodied rattlesnake with a segmented rattle on its tail tip. It is grey, tan or light brown with dark brown, bow-tie shaped blotches on its back and is often confused with other banded or blotched Ontario snakes. The Massasauga has elliptical pupils and a pair of heat-sensitive pits between the eyes and nostrils. The Massasauga is Ontario’s only remaining venomous snake and provides a unique opportunity for us to respect and co-exist with a creature that can cause us harm. Despite widespread persecution, Massasaugas pose little threat to public safety. In First Nations traditions, Massasaugas are the medicine keepers of the land, a reminder to tread lightly and to take only what we need.

Response Statements

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) in Canada (2015)

    The Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) is a stout-bodied, relatively small rattlesnake that feeds primarily on small mammals. It is assessed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) due to a historical population decline, continued habitat fragmentation and loss, and human persecution, and is listed as Threatened on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Canada hosts 8-10% of the global distribution of this species. The eastern Georgian Bay and Bruce Peninsula Massasauga populations are believed to be the largest and most secure found anywhere across the species entire range.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada (2016)

    Bruce Peninsula National Park (BPNP) and Fathom Five National Marine Park (FFNMP) lie at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula which separates Georgian Bay from Lake Huron. The peninsula is 90 km in length and its most prominent feature is the Niagara Escarpment which runs along the entire eastern edge. Within BPNP, the escarpment forms the Georgian Bay shoreline and is recognized as part of the core area of the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.  BPNP was established by the federal government in 1987 to protect a representative example of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Lowlands natural region. Because of the fragmented nature of the park properties, many of the stresses on the park’s ecosystem originate from outside its boundaries. For this reason, First Nations, local residents, non-governmental organizations, and other groups and land users play an important role in managing, restoring, and protecting the northern Bruce ecosystem. 
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Georgian Bay Islands National Park of Canada (2016)

    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.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 2 Endangered: 28 Threatened: 19 Special Concern: 19 Data Deficient: 4 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 73 Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

  • Description of critical habitat of Massasauga in Georgian Bay Islands National Park of Canada and Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada (2016)

    The Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) is listed on Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act as threatened. The Massasauga, eastern Canada’s only venomous snake, is a stout-bodied, relatively small rattlesnake; adults are typically 50 to 70 cm long. It is found in a broad range of natural communities (e.g. forests, wetlands, grasslands, and alvars), and is known to occur in four separate regional populations in Ontario. The Recovery Strategy for the Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) in Canada identifies critical habitat for the species in a number of areas, including two national parks.