Know Your Neighbour – The Eastern Foxsnake
Photo Credit – Mike Weissman
I’m sure that some of us have heard multiple stories about venomous snakes around the Chatham-Kent area. Well, I’m here to let you know that these stories are cases of misidentification and are far from the truth. Although there are many types of snakes in this area that come in all shapes, sizes and colours… none of them are dangerous or venomous.
Upon first encounter, snakes can certainly look menacing and down right scary. Look at this guy – no happy smile, no big doe eyes or sweet cuddly fur – it’s no wonder these creatures can be hard to appreciate.
The Eastern Foxsnake (Pantherophis gloydi) is one of Ontario’s largest snakes and can reach over 1.70 meters or 6 feet in length, although most individuals are smaller. This beautiful snake usually has a coppery orange head and they are a light brown or golden colour with large dark blotches along their bodies.
These snakes are typically found in marshes, old fields, or along drainage canals and shorelines, although sometimes they can wander into pastures and woodlots. They are mostly encountered by people at this time of the year and throughout the summer months.
If you find one, don’t be alarmed… they truly want nothing to do with you (or your kids or your dog). When Foxsnakes feel threatened, they will mimic a rattlesnake by vibrating the tip of their tail to produce a buzzing noise. Don’t let this fool you – they don’t even have a rattle! I can’t stress to you enough that Foxsnakes are harmless to humans. In retrospect, they are actually helpful. Don’t give your pet cat all the credit for the low numbers of mice in and around your property.
Within Ontario, Eastern Foxsnakes are having a really tough time surviving due to habitat loss, fragmentation of their home range, road mortality, the draining of wetlands, and shoreline development. On top of that, these snakes have been targeted by people who misidentify them as venomous snakes, or those who just don’t like snakes. Well, I don’t like taxes, gas prices or cheese whiz but that doesn’t mean I’m going to hit any of them with a shovel. Whether you like it or not, snakes play a vital role in our ecosystem and deserve our respect.
And if that isn’t enough, these snakes are also an Endangered Species and are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. No one is asking you to like snakes but we are asking you to understand their importance, realize they’re harmless, and leave them alone.
If you need help identifying any snake on your property, need more information or just need someone to talk to, PLEASE call the staff at the Rondeau Provincial Park Visitor Centre at 519-674-1768 or email Emily Slavik at firstname.lastname@example.org
A friend of The Friends of Rondeau