Species Profile

Massasauga Carolinian population

Scientific Name: Sistrurus catenatus
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2012
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.

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Related Species

Massasauga Non-active Threatened

Quick Links: | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

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Federal Protection

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



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.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Massasauga Sistrurus catenatus in Canada (2013)

    The Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) is a relatively small, thick-bodied rattlesnake with a segmented rattle on its tail tip. It is grey, tan or light brown with dark brown, bow-tie shaped blotches on its back and is often confused with other banded or blotched Ontario snakes. The Massasauga has elliptical pupils and a pair of heat-sensitive pits between the eyes and nostrils. The Massasauga is Ontario’s only remaining venomous snake and provides a unique opportunity for us to respect and co-exist with a creature that can cause us harm. Despite widespread persecution, Massasaugas pose little threat to public safety. In First Nations traditions, Massasaugas are the medicine keepers of the land, a reminder to tread lightly and to take only what we need.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Massasauga, Carolinian population (2013)

    The population is reduced to two highly isolated and restricted areas surrounded by intense threats from neighbouring development and subject to illegal exploitation. The sub-populations are small and subject to genetic and demographic stochasticity that endangers future growth. Habitat quality also continues to decline.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) in Canada (2015)

    The Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) is a stout-bodied, relatively small rattlesnake that feeds primarily on small mammals. It is assessed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) due to a historical population decline, continued habitat fragmentation and loss, and human persecution, and is listed as Threatened on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Canada hosts 8-10% of the global distribution of this species. The eastern Georgian Bay and Bruce Peninsula Massasauga populations are believed to be the largest and most secure found anywhere across the species entire range.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2017)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2017)

    Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances). Given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore result in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013)

    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.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2013 (2013)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Endangered or Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 518 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments by March 23, 2014, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 23, 2014, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. Consultation paths.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

  • Description of critical habitat of Massasauga in Georgian Bay Islands National Park of Canada and Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada (2016)

    The Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) is listed on Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act as threatened. The Massasauga, eastern Canada’s only venomous snake, is a stout-bodied, relatively small rattlesnake; adults are typically 50 to 70 cm long. It is found in a broad range of natural communities (e.g. forests, wetlands, grasslands, and alvars), and is known to occur in four separate regional populations in Ontario. The Recovery Strategy for the Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) in Canada identifies critical habitat for the species in a number of areas, including two national parks.