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Threatened Snake Topic at MVFN Meeting

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by: Cliff Bennett
Feb. 20, 2004

Threatened Snake Topic at MVFN Meeting

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The largest snake in Canada, the Eastern black rat snake, is becoming scarce and is now on Ontario’s list of threatened species. This two metre long reptile was the topic of a presentation by Ministry of Natural Resources’ (MNR) District Ecologist to the monthly meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), held in Almonte United Church, Thursday, Feb. 19. Mr. Thompson is Deputy Conservation Officer for the Kemptville District.

Introduced by MVFN host Patricia Matheson, Thompson thrilled the audience with tales of his life-long interest in snakes since he was two years old, running around the countryside chasing after his quarry in order to study their habits and habitat. Much of his adult life has been spent as a Provincial Park specialist enthralling children and adults on snakes, explaining facts and dispelling myths.

The Eastern black rat snake can still be found in this area, mostly in the Frontenac axis lands, west of Perth and south of highway 7. Programmes are currently underway to maintain and protect existing populations. A few small and diminishing colonies are still recorded in Southern Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie where recovery efforts are concentrating on maintaining and restoring lost habitat.

Shawn Thompson has spent the past twenty years of his life studying the Eastern black rat snake. His programme includes genetic studies and tagging with radio chips to follow their range of activities . Public education is key and working with land owners produces much assistance in protecting the population. Shawn asked those present to spread the word around to watch out for these critters on the roadways. “Break for snakes” is a constant slogan. After a vigorous question and answer period, he was thanked by Ms. Matheson and presented with a gift of local honey products.

Prior to the main speaker, MVFN Director Jim Bendell conducted an enthusiastic show and tell exercise in which members of the audience described their recent nature sightings and experiences. In other business, MVFN Director Cliff Bennett announced the awarding of a grant of $1000 from the Community Stewardship Council of Lanark County for the club’s Environmental Education Projects Programme. The next regular MVFN meeting will be held Thursday, March 18 and the topic will be all about bats.

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