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Eastern Fox Snake

Eastern Fox Snake
   Photo: ROM

Features: The Eastern Fox Snake (Pantherophis gloydi) is Ontario's second-largest snake after its close relative, the Eastern Ratsnake (Elaphe obsoleta), and usually grows to about one metre long (some individuals grow to 1.75 metres). Eastern Fox Snakes have a reddish head and a yellowish-brown body with dark blotches down the back and a row of smaller blotches along each side. They are usually found near water in both marsh and woodland, and often near human habitation. They will enter barns and travel along roads and ditches when hunting for small rodents and birds, which are killed by constriction. Fox snakes are good swimmers, and they have been recorded swimming over two kilometres between islands. In late summer, females lay their eggs in rotting logs, though they have also been known to use sawdust piles and manure heaps. As temperatures drop in the fall, snakes will converge on local communal overwintering sites (called hibernacula). Individual fox snakes may travel several kilometres to these underground hibernacula.

Status: Threatened Provincially and Nationally

Range: The Eastern Fox Snake is found in the Great Lakes basin region in Ontario, Michigan, and northern Ohio. The western subspecies is found in the mid-west United States. In Ontario, the Fox Snake is found in the Georgian Bay region, the east shore of Lake Huron, and the north shore of Lake Erie.

Threats: The Eastern Fox Snake is thought to have declined in Ontario as wetlands were drained and shorelines were developed for cottages. Illegal collecting for the pet trade and accidental kills as snakes cross roads have also impacted populations. Many are mistaken for rattlesnakes and deliberately killed. Reproduction is slow; females do not breed until several years after birth, and then only every two years.

Protection: The Eastern Fox Snake is protected under Ontario's Endangered Species Act, 2007. Populations of the Eastern Fox Snake live in two National Parks, and 16 Provincial Parks and Nature Reserves, where they are protected. In Ontario, this species is also protected under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

Text Sources: Willson and Prior 1998

Last Modified Date: June 2010

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