Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI) : Institut de recherche du Mersey Tobeatic

Ribbonsnake Research in the Southwest Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve

MTRI

MTRI is a non-profit co-operative with a mandate to promote sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity conservation in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve and beyond through research, education, and the operation of a field station.

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Eastern Ribbonsnake Research

The Eastern Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus) is listed as 'Threatened' under both the federal Species at Risk Act and the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act.  Its range in Nova Scotia appears to be limited to the interior of southwest Nova Scotia, with the majority of sightings occuring in the Mersey and Medway watersheds. Little is known about this small, harmless, cryptic snake.  Researchers are studying this snake to determine its range in Nova Scotia, its population structure, size and trends, and to identify threats. Threats include loss of habitat due to shoreline development, alterations to watercourses, being run over by vehicles on roads, tracks and trails, and being intentionally harmed by humans. Our limited understanding and lack of knowledge of its biology, distribution, and overwintering sites may be the greatest hindrance to its recovery.

 

 Photo Credit:  Wesley Pitts

What do they look like?  Where do they live?

The Eastern Ribbonsnake is a long, slender, semi-aquatic snake.  It is black with three yellow stripes that run along its back and sides, and has caramel coloured lines below the yellow side stripes.  It also has as distinguishing white, tear-drop shaped line in front of each eye.

They are typically found near the water's edge of freshwater wetlands including stillwater streams, lakes, marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens.  In the winter, they hibernate underground. Our knowledge of its habitat is currently limited and research is on-going.  

 

Photo Credit:  Jeffie McNeil

What can you do to help?

Get involved!  Become a steward, volunteer and report sightings!

For more information, visit the Eastern Ribbonsnake pages on Nova Scotia's Species at Risk Conservation and Recovery website at www.speciesatrisk.ca, or our Healthy Lakes and Wetlands for Tomorrow: A Landowner Stewardship Guide for Species at Risk.

 


 

Eastern Ribbonsnake Overwintering Habitats

Eastern ribbonsnakes must find suitable underground sites to avoid freezing winter temperatures.  However, it is not known if these sites typically occur within wetlands, at their edges or in adjacent terrestrial habitats. Knowing the characteristics of overwintering sites and their distance from the snake’s summer wetlands is crucial for critical habitat identification, identifying threats and developing management plans for this species, which is listed as Threatened both federally and provincially.  In winter 2009, the first known ribbonsnake overwintering area in a terrestrial habitat was identified in Nova Scotia and this site has been monitored annually since its discovery to document long-term use, number of snakes and site fidelity.  Efforts continue to locate additional overwintering sites through systematic surveys of upland areas adjacent to known concentrations of ribbonsnakes.

 

Project objectives

Photo Credit:  Jeffie McNeil

 

Methods

 

2014 Results 

Photo Credits:  Jeffie McNeil 

 

2012 Results 

 

2011 Results 

 Photo Credits:  Jeffie McNeil 

 

Years of Data

 

Partners 

 


 

Eastern Ribbonsnake Microclimates and Conservation Canines

The Atlantic population of the Eastern ribbonsnake is listed as a threatened species under the federal Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC) and the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act.  As an ectotherm, this snake’s physiological activity and survival are highly dependent on environmental temperatures.  Snakes are able to strategically move between warm and cool microclimates within their habitat in order to regulate their body temperature in response to changing environmental conditions.  A better understanding of microhabitat and microclimate preferences of the ribbonsnake could improve our understanding about their movement patterns and thermal ecology.  The ribbonsnake’s cryptic nature makes them difficult to locate in the field, so assistance from scent-trained sniffer dogs has been recently used as a non-invasive method to help find these individuals in the field.  This exploratory study hopes that a better understanding of this species’ behaviour within microhabitats under various field conditions will improve monitoring and research strategies.

 

Project objectives

 Photo Credit:  M. Thompson

 

Methods

  Photo Credits:  J. Delle Cave and M. Thompson

 

2013 Results 

 

Years of Data

 

Partners