Georgian Bay Biosphere

Species at Risk Database

Species at Risk Database

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Eastern Foxsnake

Elaphe gloydi

With its copper coloured head people sometimes mistakenly call this snake a Copperhead, a venomous snake that does not live in Ontario.

COSEWIC Status: Endangered

COSSARO Status: Endangered

K. Otterbein


  • Adult body length reaches 80 to 140cm (31 to 55 in.).
  • Yellow or orange-brown background colour with dark blotches down back and sides.
  • Belly is patterned like a yellow and black checkerboard.
  • Copper-coloured head with little or no markings.


  • Young may eat frogs and insects, but adults prefer rodents and bird eggs.
  • Foxsnakes are constrictors.

Habits and Reproduction

  • Emerge from winter hibernation sites (a frost-free shelter such as mammal burrows or rock crevice) in mid-April.
  • Usually return to hibernation sites by late September.
  • Foxsnakes hibernate communally, sometimes in large numbers.
  • If frightened it will vibrate its tail sounding similar to a rattlesnake. This snake is not venomous and will more likely musk than bite if handled.
  • Can swim long distances.
  • An average of 14 eggs are laid in late June and July under the protection of a decaying log or shallow burrow.
  • Young hatch in late August or September. They are 23-26cm long, greyish with reddish brown blotches and a dark bar on the head.
  • Females reach maturity in 5 years.


  • Rocky shores, beaches, and marshes.
  • Generally found within 30 metres of Georgian Bay and unlikely to be found beyond 1km from the Bay.


  • Habitat loss particularly of important habitat such as hibernation sites, road mortality and direct persecution are the greatest threats to this snake.
  • The eastern foxsnake only occurs in 3 areas; approximately 70% of the population is in Ontario and there are remnant populations in northern Ohio and Michigan. It is considered a globally threatened species and its survival will be highly dependent on areas such as eastern Georgian Bay

Conservation Actions

  • Please report sightings of foxsnakes especially if you notice areas where they are gathering in the fall.
  • Watch out while driving. Far too many foxsnakes are killed along our roadways.

Range Map

Photo Gallery

Credit: Kayla Martin

Eastern foxsnake swims on the surface of the water. Credit: Anna Lawson

For more information about the Eastern Foxsnake in the Georgian Bay area, contact:

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
SAR Biologist
7 Bay Street
Parry Sound, Ontario
P2A 1S4
Phone: 705-746-4201

Georgian Bay Islands National Park
901 Wye Valley Road
Midland, Ontario
L4R 4K6
Phone: 705-526-9804

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