3 Things You Need to Know About the Eastern Ribbonsnake: Species at risk series￼
This monthly series features at-risk plants and animals found in the Ottawa Valley and what we can do to protect them.
How do we define a species at risk?
Species at risk are animals and plants in danger of disappearing from Canada’s wild unless we act quickly.
The provincial and federal governments use five terms to categorize at risk species in Canada depending on their threat status:
- Special concern: species which may become threatened or endangered due to threats to their habitats or themselves.
- Threatened: species in the wild not yet endangered but likely to become so if urgent steps aren’t taken to stop activities threatening them or their habitats.
- Endangered: wild species close to becoming extirpated or extinct and if action isn’t taken soon, we could lose species in this category – possibly forever.
- Extirpated: the final step before complete extinction, extirpation is when a species can no longer live in its native habitat in Ontario or Quebec but can be found elsewhere in the world.
- Extinct: species no longer in existence.
While many things can lead to a species becoming at risk, habitat loss and degradation caused by clear-cut logging, mining, oil, and road or housing developments are a few of the human dangers these species face.
This month, we’re focusing on the Eastern Ribbonsnake, otherwise known as Thamnophis sauritus, which is categorized as “special concern.”
What does the Eastern Ribbonsnake look like?
In adulthood, these snakes can grow to about 27 inches long, with females typically being longer than males.
This snake has a slender body with 3 yellow stripes along its back and sides and a black back. Eastern Ribbonsnakes have a contrasting white chin and a white-yellow stomach.
You can also identify these snakes by the white crescents in front of their eyes, distinguishing them from gartersnakes in particular.
Where do these snakes live?
You can find this semi-aquatic snake slithering near water. Eastern Ribbonsnakes are good swimmers, so be on the lookout in marshes, wetlands, and shallow waters.
In the Ottawa Valley, the Eastern Ribbonsnake has been spotted in the Bruce Peninsula, Georgian Bay, and across eastern Ontario.
What threatens the Eastern Ribbonsnake?
The Ottawa Valley has experienced a decline of wetland and shoreline habitat due to agricultural uses, urban growth, and shoreline development.
Their main source of food – frogs – have also been in decline, threatening this snake’s survival.
What can you do to help?