Have you ever seen a wild snake before? You can find 11 different species of snakes in the Georgian Bay Biosphere. Some of the snakes you see might look very similar, and some even pretend to be something they’re not. 

One of these snakes is very special, the Massasauga rattlesnake. The Massasauga rattlesnake, or Zhiishiigweg, is Ontario’s only venomous snake. Venomous animals are able to deliver a bite with venom; a special chemical that helps them catch and consume prey. This also means that their bite can be dangerous to humans. 

Luckily, Massasauga rattlesnakes are very shy, and usually give lots of warning to let humans know they’re near. Rattlesnakes use their tails to rattle, and give a warning to any potential predators.

Other snakes in the biosphere that don’t have the protection of a venomous bite may try to trick predators into thinking they’re a rattlesnake. This helps them avoid being eaten. Sometimes this strategy can trick people too! 

Let’s look at some snakes that might imitate a Rattlesnake. With a little practice, you can learn how to tell these snakes apart and impress your friends and family. Always remember to give snakes their space, and discover which snake you’re seeing from at least a meter away. 

Massasauga Rattlesnake

Credit: J. Rouse

Massasauga rattlesnakes have short, plump bodies. This is because they sit and wait for their prey, rather than actively searching for food like the Biosphere’s other snakes. They have a series of spots on their back that look like bowties or saddles. They also have a triangular head, with eyes like a cat, and very stylish eyeliner that extends to the back of their head. 

Eastern Foxsnake

Credit: K. Otterbein

Eastern foxsnakes are the largest snake in the Biosphere. They can grow up to 1.7m long!

They have black spots with a brown or beige body. When they reach adulthood, they develop a unique orange-toned head. 

Eastern Milksnake

Credit: S. Gillingwater

Eastern milksnakes appear smooth and shiny, unlike rattlesnakes which look rough and dull. They sometimes have spots that look like a bowtie or saddle, but they are usually reddish-brown. Their spots also have a thick outline that looks like they could have been drawn by a big Sharpie marker. Milksnakes often have a y-shaped marking at the back of their head. 

Eastern Hog-nosed

Credit: J. Rouse

Eastern hog-nosed snakes have a unique up-turned nose. Sometimes they have spots, and sometimes they are a solid colour, but they almost always have a dark patch on their neck. Hog-nosed snakes will rattle their tail, but they will also flatten their neck to try and make themselves look especially scary. If their impersonation doesn’t work, they will try and play dead!

Activity: Similar Snakes Colouring Sheet!

Do you want a handy reminder of these snake’s features, plus something fun to do?

Download Who am I? Similar Snakes in the Georgian Bay Biosphere!