Thursday, 29 May 2014

Beausoleil Island!

From Monday to Wednesday of this week I was up on sunny Beausoleil Island in Georgian bay for work, taking the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Training Course offered by Ontario Nature, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  We stayed in Camp Kitchikewana, a YMCA camp, and made day trips throughout the island to see all the amazing herpetofauna (reptile and amphibian) species!  I was blown away by the rich diversity of species here.  Half of Ontario's 48 herp species are found on this relatively small island!  I was able to photograph most of them for your viewing pleasure.

Beausoleil Island!
On our first outing on Monday I found my first Massasauga Rattlesnake ever, as well as Hog-nosed Snake and numerous other species!  This is the only venomous snake in Ontario and it is also Threatened.

Massasauga Rattlesnake
This species is shy and only rattles when you are very close to warn you not to step on it! Biting is a last resort, and no one has died of a snake bite in Ontario in around 50 years.  Definitely a misunderstood species!

This guy rattled as our large group walked by, and we found him under some cover.
A beautiful hog-nosed snake found by another member of our group! What a beautiful creature!
This is the one I found shortly after.  Note the upturned "hog-nose"
Immature Hog-nosed Snake
Hog-nosed snakes have a full bag of tricks to try and dissuade a would be attacker such as humans.  These include rattling of the tail to imitate rattlers, puffing up the neck, and if all else fails, playing dead as you can see here!  This species is also a Threatened Species in Ontario.
What great acting!
Immature Northern Map Turtle, named for the lines on the face, legs and shell.  This is a species of Special Concern in Ontario
Eastern Musk Turtle, also called stinkpot for the smelly musk they exude when frightened
Adorable little Musk Turtle!  This species is Threatened in Ontario
Northern Watersnake were common on Beausoleil
This Blanding's Turtle was missing both front legs! and still managed to get around!  This species is Threatened in Ontario
Wetlands were very productive for finding many herp species
Eastern Ribbonsnake, found out on the bog mat.  This is a species of Special Concern in Ontario.
The red-eft stage of the Eastern Newt.  The orange colours warn that this species is toxic to eat!
The tiny four-toed salamander!
Even the area around the camp was productive and we were able to find rattlesnakes and this Eastern Foxsnake.  This is a younger individual, apparently around 8-9 years old.
Eastern Foxsnake.  A Threatened species in Ontario
One of the instructors was releasing the foxsnake that was captured and stumbled across newly emerging Map Turtle hatchlings!  Some of the instructors helped dig out the babies while we watched.  Afterwards we helped the little guys into the water.

Hatchling map turtles!
4 of the 6 hatchlings that we dug out. 
Adult, map turtle that was caught the next day.  Notice how it's right eye is missing! 
Rattlesnakes were as common as any other snake on the island.  I lost count, but think I personally saw around 20 individuals.

Watching us intently.
One of the instructors, Joe Crowley, found this tiny immature rattlesnake.  I'm surprised he could hear it rattle, since it was so quiet!

The young ones are much more nervous, and this guy even opened his mouth a bit.
Another young one.  Look at that camouflage!
There is a rattlesnake somewhere in this shot in plain sight. Can you see it?
One of my favourite snakes.  The colourful ring-necked snake!
A tiny baby ring-necked snake I found under a rock.  This guy could have fit on a loonie.
Gray tree-frog trying to blend in, in some grass.
Overall this was a wonderful trip, and one I learned a lot on!  I would be amiss if I didn't mention that Ontario's herpetofauna species are in trouble from habitat loss, road mortality and other human impacts.  Most of the species we found on the island are Species at Risk in Ontario.  The reason they thrive on this island is because such impacts are reduced or absent all together.  Help out by reporting your sightings to the Ontario Nature Reptile and Amphibian Atlas and by watching out for these guys on the road!

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