Massasauga Month: Births, Workshops and Stewardship!

Massasauga Rattlesnake Births!

The Toronto Zoo is proud to announce the latest success story from one of the zoo’s many conservation breeding programs; the birth of six massasauga rattlesnakes on Wednesday August 16, 2015. This is the second year in a row that the Toronto Zoo has seen success from the Massasauga Rattlesnake Breeding Program. Historically, the massasauga rattlesnakes, now considered an endangered species in southern Ontario, are a challenging breed to reproduce. However, just as in 2014, the zoo carefully adjusted day lengths to simulate wild conditions in an effort to condition the snakes and provide an optimal environment for successful breeding.


The six new rattlesnakes, which are all doing well, will join the current managed population of massasauga’s at the Toronto Zoo. More exciting news, as of this morning a second female gave birth to as many as six new rattlesnakes! Their valuable genetic lineage will be a contribution in enhancing the health of other assurance populations.  The Zoo’s massasauga rattlesnakes are part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) conservation and breeding program that began in 2006 as a result of concerns over the decline of the massasauga rattlesnake population in Canada and in 10 U.S. states where it is listed as Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern. The SSP promotes stewardship and respect of the massasauga rattlesnake.  The Toronto Zoo wants to inspire citizens to make responsible choices that benefit our communities by protecting the natural places we rely on.

“We are very excited to see success, for a second year in a row, of this important conservation breeding program for this endangered species” says Dr. Andrew Lentini, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Toronto Zoo. “This birth gives us confidence that we are making major strides in the work we are doing that will sustain recovery efforts for these special snakes now and for years to come”.

The Toronto Zoo has worked to save and protect massasauga rattlesnakes and Ontario snakes since 1989 and provides workshops for Zoo members and those living in areas where rattlesnakes are found. The Zoo also contributes to the recovery of this species and a team of recovery experts supports field research, education and outreach programs and resources, scientific research, monitoring, development of shelter areas and ecosystem restoration.

Massasauga Rattlesnake Workshop!

Saturday, September 26, 2015
10:00am to 11:30am
Education Auditorium

The Toronto Zoo is offering a new Fall Rattlesnake Workshop hosted by Toronto Zoo’s very own Dr. Andrew Lentini, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians. This is your chance to experience close encounters with some native Ontario snakes, meet a live rattlesnake with Toronto Zoo reptile experts and learn how to identify and live safely with the Massasauga rattlesnake as well as other snakes you may find in your own backyard! Plus, you’ll get a gift bag filled with everything you need to become an official snake steward and help protect our snake neighbours!


This event includes a light breakfast of tea, coffee, muffins and scones, a 90 minute interactive presentation featuring a variety of snakes, followed by a guided walk to our Massasauga rattlesnake exhibit.

A portion of proceeds will help fund snake conservation activities!

* Please note: Toronto Zoo admissions and parking not included

 For more information or to purchase your tickets please CLICK HERE

Massasauga Outreach on the Bruce Peninsula!

During August we at Adopt-A-Pond have taken our Massasauga educational programming on the road! Our team made a trip to the Tobermory area to spread the word about coexisting with Ontario’s only venomous snake.

We held 2 presentations about the Massasauga rattlesnake at Summer House Park, a camping resort on Miller Lake. Over 50 campers of all ages attended and had their many questions answered by our snake experts. There was also a live Massasauga on hand from Toronto Zoo so participants had a chance to meet one up close. Many were taken aback by its small size and shy nature. People left the presentation with a better understanding of these misunderstood snakes and a handful of valuable resources on the Massasauga that they could share with family and friends.

The owner of Summer House Park has always been interested in sharing nature with camp visitors and helping them connect with wildlife on the Bruce Peninsula. During our trip we also helped her improve habitat for local Massasaugas. She owns several parcels of land in addition to the campground area where these snakes are sighted. Part of the land is being restored from old farm fields to a more natural state through the creation of new ponds and some tree planting activities. We helped identify some open areas among the tree plantings where we created basking sites for local snakes and other small animals. The basking sites will provide animals with places to warm themselves in the sun but also provide cover should they feel threatened or need to escape a predator.

Following our visit at Summer House Park, we headed up to Tobermory to do a public workshop at the community centre. Again accompanied by our Toronto Zoo Massasauga, we encouraged people to check him out and ask us their snake questions. People both young and old attended, asked questions and spoke of their experiences with Massasaugas in the area. Most people had lived around Massasaugas for their entire lives, but had seen very few simply because of their secretive nature. Everyone found it a great opportunity to see one up close and get a better understanding of how they can be identified.

Adopt-A-Pond is working to help people understand the many misunderstood reptiles and amphibians of Ontario through our outreach events and educational resources. The Massasauga has been a highlight of our conservation efforts for many years and this year we are updating the materials we use to inform people about coexisting with these special snakes through updated print resources, new informational videos, and taking our Massasauga ambassadors on the road!

Funding for Adopt-A-Pond Programme Has Been Provided By:

Env Can and On

For more information about Toronto Zoo conservation programs visit:

AAP and TZ