Eastern Ribbonsnake Great Lakes population
Scientific Name: Thamnophis sauritus
Other/Previous Names: Northern Ribbonsnake (Great Lakes population)
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
COSEWIC Range: Ontario, Quebec
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2012
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: The Great Lakes population is relatively widespread and appears to be locally abundant in a few sites. However, quantitative data are lacking on population size and trends, and most information is anecdotal and from protected areas. Wetland and shoreline habitat loss and road development continue at an alarming rate within their range and present a significant threat to the species. Unless those losses are reversed the species is at risk of becoming Threatened. Road mortality and habitat loss are widespread and much of the species distribution occurs in pockets of habitat surrounded by agricultural land, roads and shoreline development.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in May 2002. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2012.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-01-12
Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.
Image of Eastern Ribbonsnake
There are four subspecies of the Eastern Ribbonsnake, and only one, the Northern Ribbonsnake, is found in Canada.
The Eastern Ribbonsnake is a small, slender semi-aquatic snake with a long tail. It can be identified by its black body with three, longitudinal yellow stripes, two lateral and one dorsal, running the length of the body. The side stripes occur on the 3rd and 4th scale rows. Below the stripe, the scales are caramel to rusty brown. There is a vertical white line in front of the eye. (Updated 2017/06/06)
Distribution and Population
Eastern Ribbonsnakes range from southern Canada to Florida, east of the Mississippi River. There are four recognized sub-species of the Eastern Ribbonsnake; of these only the Northern Ribbonsnake (T. s. septentrionalis) occurs in Canada. Eastern Ribbonsnakes occur at the northern limit of their range in Canada, where there are two geographically distinct populations that are each considered a designatable unit. The Great Lakes population occurs in southern Ontario and extreme southern Quebec and is contiguous with the species’ main USA range. The Atlantic population is isolated and restricted to southwest Nova Scotia. (Updated 2017/06/06)
Eastern Ribbonsnakes are found in a variety of wetland habitats with both flowing and standing water such as marshes, bogs, fens, ponds, lake shorelines and wet meadows. Most sightings of Eastern Ribbonsnakes outside of the overwintering period occur near the water’s edge. Eastern Ribbonsnakes spend winter in underground hibernacula where they must avoid freezing and dessication. They may hibernate in well-drained sites or in areas close to water and may even be completely submerged inside their hibernacula. Some Eastern Ribbonsnakes may move considerable distances from water to overwinter in forested areas, but the extent of movements to their hibernation sites is not known. (Updated 2017/06/06)
Eastern Ribbonsnakes feed mostly on amphibians and small fish. They appear to feed throughout their active season, although feeding modes and prey may vary seasonally with amphibian activity. Courtship and mating generally occur in spring, although fall mating may also occur. Eastern Ribbonsnakes give live birth to 2-26 young in July or August. Eastern Ribbonsnakes can reach maturity in their second or third year. Generation time is likely no more than 4-6 years. Eastern Ribbonsnakes in Canada are constrained by temperature. They bask in exposed sunny spots to gain sufficient heat for movement, gestation and digestion. They take refuge in water, under vegetation, beneath cover objects and in shrubs to avoid overheating and to escape from predators. (Updated 2017/06/06)
Loss of wetland habitat and development of lakeshores are increasing, particularly in Ontario. These changes can lead to habitat fragmentation, degradation and loss. Increased road development and traffic frequency, greater likelihood of negative interactions with people, increased predation by pets, and increased introduction of exotic species are also threats associated with anthropogenic development of shorelines. Critical information on population size and trends is still lacking which could prevent recognition of overall population decline and impacts of threats. (Updated 2017/06/06)
More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
13 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (2 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (2 record(s) found.)
- Action Plans (3 record(s) found.)
- Management Plans (1 record(s) found.)
- Orders (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Document Posting Plans (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
Response Statements - Eastern Ribbonsnake (2004-04-21)A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.
COSEWIC Annual Reports
COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013-09-24)Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 2 Endangered: 28 Threatened: 19 Special Concern: 19 Data Deficient: 4 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 73 Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.