This chapter provides a review of progress toward protection and recovery of Queensnake in Ontario from 2007 to 2015.
Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) is a non-venomous, slender snake that generally grows between 40 to 60 centimetres in length. Queensnake has a brownish-olive body and a pale yellow belly. The species is distinguished by three narrow, black stripes on its back and four dark stripes on its belly that run lengthwise down its body.
In Canada, Queensnake occurs in southwestern Ontario in Middlesex, Brant, Huron, Norfolk and Essex counties, and on the Bruce Peninsula. Queensnake is a semi-aquatic species and rarely travels far from water. The species requires a permanent body of water, an abundance of cover material, such as flat rocks, and presence of native crayfish for prey. A suitable water body can be still or flowing, but must be at or above 18.3 degrees Celsius for the majority of the species' active season. Queensnake also requires areas for winter hibernation such as small mammal burrows, talus slopes, cracks in bedrock or openings around tree roots.
The most significant threats to Queensnake survival and recovery are habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation. This includes loss of specific habitats, such as hibernation sites, fragmentation of habitat by roads and other barriers, and changes to habitat caused by invasive species, such as European Common Reed (Phragmites australis).
The survival and recovery of Queensnake is also influenced by their sensitivity to shoreline habitat availability and their specialized diet requirements. These limitations affect the ability of the species to expand to new habitats. Their specialized diet on native crayfish is of significant concern as the invasive Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) may be displacing the main source of prey. In addition, populations of Queensnake are relatively small and spread out across the province. Small, fragmented populations can lead to decreased genetic variation in each population meaning that the species is less able to adapt to change, which can affect the survival and recovery of the species.
Prior to the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA or "the Act"), the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) assessed Queensnake as threatened, but was not regulated under the previous Endangered Species Act. Following this assessment, it was listed as threatened in 2000 and retained this status when the ESA came into force in 2008. COSSARO then re-assessed Queensnake as endangered, and the status of the species was altered on the Species at Risk in Ontario List in 2010. In future assessments, COSSARO may consider information gained through protection and recovery actions regarding the species' threats and trends in population and distribution.
Species and habitat protection
Protecting Queensnake and enforcing the regulation protecting the specific habitat of the species are key components in the implementation of the ESA, and continue to be government-led actions, as identified in the government response statement. Queensnake has been protected from being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken under the ESA since it came into force in 2008. In addition, the species' habitat has been protected from being damaged or destroyed since 2010. Habitat protection was initially based on the general habitat definition in the ESA. The habitat of Queensnake is now protected through a habitat regulation that came into force in 2013. Queensnakes also receive general protection as a Specially Protected Reptile under Schedule 9 of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 (FWCA) (no hunting/trapping, approvals required for buying/selling, etc.).
The government developed a habitat regulation (Ontario Regulation 242/08, section 29) for Queensnake on December 17, 2013. During development of the habitat regulation, additional time was required to adequately address considerations of species complexity when describing the area to be protected as habitat. A notice was posted on the Environmental Registry to notify the public about the need for additional time. The habitat regulation provides clarity to the public and others on what areas are protected as Queensnake habitat. The regulated habitat includes areas that are required by the species to carry out its life processes (e.g., hibernation, gestation and birthing) within its range in Ontario. The habitat regulation was developed based on information regarding the habitat needs of the species as well as social and economic factors, collected from a variety of sources including comments received through public consultation.
Any person who negatively impacts Queensnake or its habitat without prior authorization may be prosecuted under the ESA.
Queensnake has been protected from being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken since 2008.
In addition, the habitat of Queensnake has been protected from being damaged or destroyed since 2010. Habitat protection was initially based on the general habitat definition in the ESA. The habitat of Queensnake is now protected through a habitat regulation that came into force in 2013.
A recovery strategy for Queensnake was published on February 18, 2011, which was in advance of the date required by the ESA. Recovery strategies are advice to government and represent the best available scientific knowledge. The strategy identifies Queensnake habitat needs and the threats that it faces, while recommending objectives and approaches for protecting and recovering the species. The recovery strategy also includes recommendations on the areas of habitat to be considered in the development of a habitat regulation.
Government response statement
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry ("MNRF" or "the Ministry") published the government response statement (GRS) for Queensnake on November 18, 2011, which was within the timeframe required by the ESA. The GRS is government policy that contains the Government of Ontario’s goal for the recovery of Queensnake.
To help achieve this goal, the government leads and supports recovery actions identified in the GRS. Common actions for the government to lead as it works toward achieving a species' recovery goal are provided in section 2.5 of the Species at Risk Program Status (2008-2015). One specific action for the government to lead to help protect and recover Queensnake is:
The government’s goal for the recovery of Queensnake is to halt further decline and to achieve stable or increasing populations of Queensnake in Ontario throughout the current distribution. The government supports investigating the feasibility of reintroducing populations at historic locations within the Ontario range.
- Develop a survey protocol to be used by proponents and partners to detect the presence or absence of Queensnake.
The GRS for Queensnake also lists 11 actions the Ministry supports others to undertake for the species. These government-supported actions fall under the objectives identified in the GRS, which are:
- Increase knowledge of distribution, abundance, life history, threats, and habitat needs of Queensnake and their prey species in Ontario;
- Develop and implement measures to maintain and enhance the quantity and quality of Queensnake habitat and reduce or mitigate threats to the Queensnake; and
- Increase public awareness about the distribution, habitat and stewardship opportunities related to Queensnake.
Government funded projects
An important government-led action in the GRS for Queensnake is to support partners to undertake activities to protect and recover the species. Through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund the Ministry has supported a total of 40 projects designed to contribute to the protection and recovery of Queensnake. Seven of these projects ($253,518) focused exclusively on the species, while the other 33 projects ($1,737,369) focused on multiple species at risk, including Queensnake. In addition to the funding provided through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, partners focusing exclusively on Queensnake reported that they were successful in securing additional funding and in-kind support ($225,486) from other sources, as did partners with projects designed to benefit multiple species at risk, including Queensnake ($3,495,366). These amounts include additional funding and in-kind support in the form of time and expertise provided by volunteers.
Ontario’s Invasive Species Act
The GRS for Queensnake indicates that invasive species pose a threat to the survival and recovery of the species in Ontario. The provincial Invasive Species Act, 2015 came into force on November 3, 2016 and provides an enabling framework to support the prevention, detection and control of invasive species in Ontario. This framework may support actions to reduce the threats of invasive species on native and at-risk species, including Queensnake.
Stewardship partners also reported that provincial funding helped them to secure in-kind support by involving 97 individuals who volunteered 1,261 hours of their time toward protection and recovery activities that focused exclusively on Queensnake, which has an estimated value of $40,513. As well, a total of 5,713 individuals volunteered 36,449 hours of their time toward protection and recovery activities for multiple species at risk, including Queensnake, which has an estimated value of $775,230.
Stewardship partners reported that through both their efforts and the efforts of their volunteers to implement actions contained in the GRS, they were successful in enhancing 59 hectares of habitat that is expected to benefit multiple species at risk, including Queensnake. In addition, stewardship partners reported providing focused outreach on Queensnake to 2,765 individuals, and ecosystem-based outreach on multiple species, including Queensnake, to 155,139 individuals.
The remainder of this section highlights several projects that were supported through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund and their corresponding government-supported recovery actions.
The Huron Stewardship Council (HSC) currently works with ten other partners (e.g., non-governmental organizations, consulting firms, researchers, etc.) in a large-scale collaborative effort to gather information about Queensnake across Ontario. These groups use standardized methods throughout the Queensnake’s range to gather data on habitat use, prey interactions, genetics and current distribution of the species (Edelsparre and McCarter 2015). The following projects were completed by various organizations within this group that received stewardship funding to support activities that directly link to GRS actions:
- A stewardship project initiated in 2011 in the Maitland River valley by HSC and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) continues to inform current Queensnake research and will support future Queensnake conservation. Several project objectives have been addressed such as investigating the current distribution and trend in distribution of the Queensnake in Huron County through surveys, performing mark-recapture studies, examining habitat features (including hibernation and gestation sites) and conducting crayfish surveys. Information collected was used to determine habitat selection, predator-prey dynamics and population size estimates. Specifically, Queensnake occupancy and detection probability was investigated on the Lower Maitland River in 2013 and 2014 to target gaps in the known distribution of the species. In addition, prey analysis in 2014 included the collection of crayfish specimens, regurgitated Queensnake stomach contents and river water samples. Stomach contents submitted to the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) identified Northern Clearwater Crayfish (Orconectes propinquus) and Virile Crayfish (Orconectes virilis) in two Queensnakes. This multi-year project supports several GRS actions such as: determining the distribution and abundance of Queensnake; conducting research to address priority knowledge gaps including the determination of home range sizes, habitat needs and use for all life stages; and identifying the primary crayfish prey species, their distribution and abundance.
- Ongoing standardized province-wide surveys for Queensnake carried out by HSC and other partners have yielded approximately 140 standardized surveys at 20 sites where more than 80 Queensnake were captured or observed. These efforts have refined our knowledge on the distribution of Queensnake throughout Ontario, the influence of habitat characteristics on Queensnake distribution, prey availability and potential threats. In 2015, blood, fecal and regurgitated stomach contents were also collected for DNA analysis. Genetic information from blood samples will help inform the level of gene-flow between populations and sub-populations and provide data needed to identify populations potentially at risk of inbreeding. This project coordinates surveys across the species' entire provincial distribution and addresses several GRS actions including: the high priority action to develop and implement a long-term monitoring and survey program in extant and historic locations; identifying the location of key habitat features such as hibernacula, gestation and birthing sites; addressing priority knowledge gaps including the determination of home range size, habitat needs, the extent of genetic isolation and gene flow between sub-populations of the species.
- Additionally, HSC and NCC developed "A Stewardship Guide for the Queensnake" (2013). This publication supports the GRS action to deliver effective communication and outreach within the Queensnake range by providing a tool that will assist in outreach and education efforts.
The collaborative and strategic effort by this group has supported Queensnake recovery by collectively addressing multiple priority GRS actions, and is an impressive example of what can be achieved when several committed partners work together toward a collective conservation goal.
Ministry research on Queensnake
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry conducts research and monitoring on species at risk, including Queensnake. This work provides important science support for implementing the ESA by contributing to filling knowledge gaps and addressing priority actions identified in the GRS.
A study conducted by Reid and Nocera (2015) indicated the invasive Rusty Crayfish may have a negative impact on Queensnake. After examining 99 river sites across southern Ontario, and more than 7,500 crayfish, research demonstrated Rusty Crayfish is negatively impacting native crayfish (e.g., lower abundance, richness and within-site distribution), including one species suspected to be Queensnake’s primary prey Northern Clearwater Crayfish (Orconectes propinquus). Rusty Crayfish was not found at sites within the known Queensnake distribution; however, it was found along the lower reaches of the Speed River which is in close proximity to reaches of the Grand River used by Queensnake. It remains unclear whether or not Queensnake will prey on the invasive Rusty Crayfish, and further investigation is required to make this determination. The authors recommend regular monitoring in river reaches that are susceptible to Rusty Crayfish invasion to develop and implement proper removal protocols of Rusty Crayfish from Queensnake habitats. This research directly links to the high priority GRS action to investigate impacts Rusty Crayfish may have on Queensnake and native crayfish populations.
Government of Canada’s contribution to Queensnake recovery
In alignment with the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada and the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Species at Risk (Environment Canada, 2011), Ontario and the federal government regularly cooperate within areas of common ecological interest, including the protection and recovery of species at risk. From 2006-2012, through the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, Environment and Climate Change Canada funded 26 projects and an additional six projects were underway, that directly benefitted Queensnake conservation in Ontario (Environment Canada, 2015). Numerous activities were carried out as part of these projects such as targeted Queensnake surveys, identifying habitat of local Queensnake populations, land acquisition, habitat restoration, studying or mitigating threats to the species, encouraging the submission of sightings data and educating individuals on Queensnake identification, threats and stewardship opportunities. Demonstrating cooperation and the pooling of limited resources, many of these projects also received provincial funding to collectively support Queensnake recovery objectives and many of the associated GRS actions.
Species at Risk Stewardship Fund
for Queensnake exclusively
for multi-species projects that included Queensnake
in additional funding and in-kind support
projects included the Queensnake
hectares of habitat enhanced
people received outreach
Efforts to minimize adverse effects on and create an overall benefit for Queensnake
Supporting partners through permits and their associated conditions, is an important government-led action. A total of 16 permits have been issued for Queensnake since the species has been protected under the ESA. This includes 15 'protection or recovery permits' (i.e., 17(2)(b) permit), of which the majority pertained to multiple species, while five were issued for Queensnake exclusively. 'Protection or recovery' permits are issued if the purpose of the activity that they would enable is to assist in the protection or recovery of the species specified in the permit. These permits enabled a variety of organizations to fill knowledge gaps (e.g., distribution, life history traits, habitat needs, etc.), mitigate threats such as reducing traffic-induced mortality and to provide outreach, education and awareness for species at risk snakes, including Queensnake. In addition, one 'overall benefit permit' (i.e., 17(2)(c) permit) was issued for Queensnake to undertake stream bank restoration activities within the species habitat. Several of the conditions attached to these permits are designed to implement government-supported actions identified in the GRS for Queensnake, including:
- Compiling Queensnake records from observers and amalgamating existing databases to carry out field surveys to fill in knowledge gaps;
- Conducting surveys to locate Queensnake individuals and mark-recapture studies of populations;
- Providing the habitat type (Ecological Land Classification if available) and coordinates of any species at risk snake observed during surveys;
- Updating range and habitat use information for Queensnake;
- Rehabilitating, creating and maintaining Queensnake habitat (e.g., gestation, thermoregulation and oviposition);
- Outreach to inform landowners and community members of the presence of Queensnake; and
- Reporting all observation of Queensnake.
Other conditions designed to minimize adverse effects included, but are not limited to:
- Following the Animal Care Protocol as approved by the Ministry’s Animal Care Committee and keeping this Protocol at the activity location;
- Requiring training in proper reptile handling procedures prior to conducting any permitted activities; and
- Releasing any handled Queensnake at point of capture, when applicable during field surveys or in other applicable permits, making every effort to confirm species identification without capturing the animal.
Further information regarding 'overall benefit permits' is available through Ontario’s Environmental Registry.
A total of eleven agreements were entered into for Queensnake. These agreements were enabled through Ontario Regulation 242/08 (prior to the July 1, 2013 amendment). Conditions of the agreements involve implementing actions in the mitigation plan, including, but not limited to:
- Minimizing adverse effects (e.g., erecting temporary snake barriers approved by MNRF to prevent snake entry to the work zone);
- Monitoring, collecting, and maintaining information on the species and the mitigation measures taken; and
- Submitting an annual report summarizing the results and the effectiveness of the work.
Ten activities that may affect Queensnake or its habitat have been registered for the purposes of Ontario Regulation 242/08 under the ESA. Two of these activities are registered under 'Drainage works' (section 23.9); three of these activities are registered under 'Ecosystem protection' (section 23.11); four of these activities are registered under 'Species protection, recovery activities' (section 23.17); and the remaining activity is registered under 'Threats to health and safety, not imminent' (section 23.18). These registrations require the registered individual to comply with all conditions of the regulation, such as:
- Ensuring reasonable steps are taken to minimize adverse effects on the species and its habitat (e.g., control erosion and sediment in any area affected by the activity; training is received to identify the species and its habitat);
- Implementing the actions in a mitigation plan developed by an expert on the species;
- Documenting and maintaining records of interactions with the species;
- Engaging species experts, where necessary, to carry out and/or supervise certain activities;
- Ensuring species observations are submitted to the Natural Heritage Information Centre within three months of the observation; and
- Preparing an annual report to record all observations of the species and describe the steps taken to minimize adverse effects on the species.
Guides and resources for Queensnake
The Species at Risk Guides and Resources Toolbox is an electronic library of best management practices (BMPs) and technical resources to assist proponents and practitioners in meeting the requirements of the ESA and its regulations. MNRF has recently developed a new BMP document for inclusion in the toolbox.
In 2013, the Ministry developed guidance on 'Reptile and Amphibian Exclusion Fencing: Best Practices' to assist landowners, conservation practitioners and environmental consultants to reduce the threats that roadways and associated roadwork pose on amphibians and reptile species at risk and their habitat. More recently, the Ministry has led the development of 'Best Management Practices for Mitigating the Effects of Roads on Amphibian and Reptile Species at Risk in Ontario'. This document builds on the previous guidance by providing information on exclusion fencing as well as a number of other topics including, the impacts of roads, recommended processes and considerations for avoiding and mitigating impacts, crossing structures, monitoring techniques and supplementary mitigation measures. It also contributes to the GRS action to develop, implement and evaluate mitigation measures for priority threats to Queensnake and its prey species. As habitat loss due to the disturbance of waterways and urban development are threats to Queensnake habitat, this document provides guidance to mitigate further decline, which is the main goal of the GRS.
Developing a survey protocol to be used by proponents and partners to detect the presence or absence of Queensnake is included in the GRS as a government-led action. In August 2015, MNRF published the Survey Protocol for Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Ontario. This document provides reliable, science-based survey methods for Queensnake and is available upon request at your local MNRF district office. The protocol provides species information on Queensnake characteristics, distribution and seasonal movements as well as timing of activities such as mating, gestation and hibernation. It also includes survey methodology such as performing a records review, understanding the importance of environmental conditions when surveying, identification of survey sites in aquatic habitats, survey techniques and time periods, search effort, crayfish surveys and hibernacula surveys. A recommended survey form is also provided to document each Queensnake survey as well as all observed Queensnakes to be considered for inclusion in the official provincial record.
Occurrences of Queensnake in Ontario
Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC)
In Ontario, Queensnake is at the northern extreme of the species' range and has been documented west of the Niagara Escarpment and south of Georgian Bay. As an aquatic species, Queensnake are seldom found far from water bodies in these areas in order to fulfill specialized habitat needs (e.g., aquatic environment needed to predate crayfish). Recent and significant search effort and research have been completed for Queensnake. While previously one of the least reported snake species in Ontario, these activities have increased the knowledge of distribution, abundance, life history, threats and habitat needs of Queensnake and their prey. Furthermore, public awareness about the distribution, habitat and stewardship opportunities related to Queensnake has also increased due to these efforts.
1,048 observations submitted to the NHIC since 2008
Since 2008, when Queensnake became protected under the ESA, the Ministry has received approximately 1,048 records of the species. These records are based on observations between 1880 and 2015 and come from a variety of sources. Records submitted have helped to redefine where the species is known and has been known to occur and have provided additional information on the species' habitat and threats. For example, information submitted to the NHIC reconfirmed one population that was previously classified as historical, and is now considered extant. This population located in the St. Clair National Wildlife Area changed status because a new observation submitted in 2010 was the first observation in this area since 1883. Conversely, seven populations that were considered extant are now considered historical as a result of the date that the species was last observed.
It is possible that there are observations of Queensnake that have not been submitted to the Ministry. Encouraging the submission of observations of Queensnake to the Ministry is included in the GRS as a government-led action.
Everyone is encouraged, or may be required by an authorization or approval, to submit observations of Queensnake, as well as every other species at risk, to the Ministry’s Natural Heritage Information Centre for incorporation into the provincial record of observations.
Summary of progress toward meeting the recovery goal
Summary of progress
Progress has been made toward all government-led actions outlined in the GRS for Queensnake. The Government of Ontario has directly undertaken actions to:
- Develop a survey protocol to detect the presence or absence of Queensnake;
- Encourage submission of Queensnake data to the Natural Heritage Information Centre;
- Protect the species through the ESA and its habitat through a habitat regulation;
- Support partners to undertake activities to protect and recover the species;
- Establish and communicate annual priority actions for support;
- Educate other agencies and planning authorities on the requirement to consider the protection of the species and its habitat; and
- Undertake communications and outreach to increase public awareness of species at risk in Ontario.
Progress has been made toward all of the government-supported recovery objectives and the majority of the associated actions that are identified in the GRS for Queensnake.
Under the objective to increase knowledge of distribution, abundance, life history, threats, and habitat needs of Queensnake and their prey species in Ontario, considerable progress has been made toward four of the five actions and initial progress has been made toward the remaining action (Action No. 5):
- Develop and implement a long-term monitoring and survey program in extant and historic locations as well as within nearby suitable habitat to determine the distribution and abundance of Queensnake, identify the primary crayfish prey species and their distribution and abundance, and track and invasions of Rusty Crayfish (Action No. 1; High Priority);
- Investigate the impacts Rusty Crayfish and other invasive species may have on Queensnake and native crayfish populations (Action No. 2; High Priority);
- Identify the location of key habitat features such as hibernacula, gestation, and birthing sites (Action No. 3; High Priority);
- Conduct research to address priority knowledge gaps related to Queensnake including the determination of home ranges sizes, habitat needs and use for all life stages, the extent of genetic isolation and gene flow between sub-populations of the species, and the level of chemical contamination within Queensnakes, their prey, and the water they occur in (Action No. 4); and
- Investigate the feasibility and appropriateness of reintroducing the species into historic habitat areas (Action No. 5).
Collectively, four of the actions have been implemented through various projects supported by the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund or through conditions of authorizations or registrations, or a combination of those. Initial progress has been made to investigate the feasibility and appropriateness of reintroducing the species into historic habitat areas through considerable habitat work (provincial surveys and suitability models) which provides important first steps in addressing this action.
Under the objective to develop and implement measures to maintain and enhance the quantity and quality of Queensnake habitat and reduce or mitigate threats to the Queensnake progress has been made on one of the actions:
- Develop, implement and evaluate mitigation measure for priority threats to Queensnake and its prey species (Action No. 7).
This action was implemented by government-led actions, including the development of a Queensnake survey protocol and a BMP document to mitigate the effect of roads on species at risk snakes.
Under the objective to increase public awareness about the distribution, habitat and stewardship opportunities related to Queensnake, considerable progress has been made toward the three actions:
- Evaluate existing communications and outreach approaches and develop new strategies that will have a positive impact on people’s behaviours (Action No. 9);
- Deliver effective communications and outreach to key stakeholders, including landowners and land managers within the range of Queensnake to increase awareness on the species, its habitat, and stewardship options (Action No. 10); and
- Work with broader recovery efforts, conservation groups and initiatives to implement recovery actions on a watershed basis (Action No. 11).
These actions were implemented through numerous projects supported through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund and conditions of authorizations. For example, a stewardship partner evaluated the percent change in attitude and knowledge for snakes and turtles following outreach work and found a strong positive correlation with snake handling and snake attitude, demonstrating that interactive programs are important in impacting people’s behaviours.
The recovery goal for Queensnake in Ontario is to halt further decline and achieve stable or increasing populations of Queensnake throughout the current distribution, and to investigate the feasibility of reintroducing populations at historic locations within the Ontario range. The provincial record of observations indicates that three historical populations have been confirmed as extant and seven populations that were previously extant are now considered historical as they have not been observed for 20 years. Further information is needed to determine whether Queensnake is trending toward its goal to achieve stable or increasing populations; however, the initiation of a province-wide long term monitoring program using standardized methods is very encouraging. In addition, the multi-year studies in Huron County and quantitative analysis of habitat selection, predator-prey dynamics, and occupancy modelling combined with provincial monitoring efforts make significant contributions toward the recovery of Queensnake. The recovery goal also states that the government supports investigating the feasibility of reintroducing populations at historic locations within the Ontario range. Initial steps toward reaching this part of the recovery goal have been completed through the development of habitat suitability models and standardized habitat surveys to identify the species' habitat requirements.
As stated in the GRS, the review of progress toward protecting and recovering Queensnake can be used to help identify whether adjustments are needed to achieve the protection and recovery of the species. Based on progress to-date, the overall direction provided in the GRS for Queensnake should continue to guide protection and recovery actions for the species, particularly actions identified as high priority in the GRS. Relative to actions that have received a high level of support, the following actions have received support to a lesser degree and may be considered in future decisions regarding the protection and recovery of Queensnake:
Moving forward, protecting and recovering Queensnake will continue to be a shared responsibility that will require the involvement of many individuals, organizations and communities. Financial support for the implementation of actions may be available through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, Species at Risk Research Fund for Ontario or the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program. The Ministry can also advise if any authorizations under the ESA or other legislation may be required to undertake a project. By working together, progress can continue to be made toward protecting Ontario and recovering Queensnake in Ontario.
- Initial progress has been made toward investigating the impacts of Rusty Crayfish and other invasive species on Queensnake and native crayfish populations (Action No. 2; High Priority); however, further work is required to fully implement this action due to the highly fertile and aggressive nature of Rusty Crayfish contributing to continued invasion and possible impacts on Queensnake;
- Progress has been made toward improving understanding of home range sizes, habitat needs, genetic isolation and levels of contamination within the water in which Queensnake occurs, and continued progress is encouraged for this action to guide current research to address priority knowledge gaps related to Queensnake (Action No. 4);
- Further progress could be made toward the actions to investigate the feasibility and appropriateness of reintroducing the species into historic habitat areas (Action No. 5), develop and field test a manual for landowners, planners and conservation partners that provides a summary of the best management practices to restore, maintain and protect Queensnake habitat (Action No. 6; High Priority) and as opportunities arise, to support the securement of lands that contain Queensnake populations through existing land securement and stewardship programs (Action No. 8). In Ontario, Queensnake are found only in southern Ontario, where land conversion and disturbance of waterways has occurred and demands for development continue.
Summary of progress toward the protection and recovery of Queensnake (2007 to 2015)
- Queensnake is classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). Prior to its transition to the ESA, Queensnake was listed as threatened, but was not regulated under the previous Endangered Species Act. It was re-assessed as endangered, and its status was updated on the Species at Risk List in 2010. The species has been protected from being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken under the ESA since 2008, and its habitat has been protected from damage or destruction since 2010. In addition, in 2014, the government finalized a habitat regulation for the species.
Species-specific documents and guidance published by the government:
- Recovery Strategy for the Queensnake in Ontario (2011)
- Queensnake: Ontario Government Response Statement (2011)
- Queensnake Habitat Regulation (Ontario Regulation 242/08; 2014)
Government-supported stewardship projects:
- Through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (“the Ministry”) has enabled its stewardship partners to conduct a total of 40 projects that have supported the protection and recovery of Queensnake. Seven projects ($253,518) focused exclusively on Queensnake, while the other 33 projects ($1,737,369) focused on multiple species at risk, including Queensnake.
- The Ministry’s support helped its stewardship partners to involve 5,810 individuals who volunteered 37,710 hours of their time toward protection and recovery activities for species at risk, including Queensnake. The estimated value of these voluntary contributions, as well as additional funding and in-kind support, is $3,720,852.
- Stewardship partners reported that through their actions 59 hectares of habitat were enhanced for Queensnake and other species at risk that inhabit the same ecosystem.
- Stewardship partners reported providing outreach on multiple species at risk, including Queensnake to 157,904 individuals.
Supporting human activities while ensuring appropriate support for species recovery:
- The Ministry has issued 16 permits for this species: 15 ‘protection and recovery permits’ were issued under clause 17(2)(b), and one ‘overall benefit permit’ was issued under clause 17(2)(c) of the ESA.
- A total of 11 agreements were entered into for Queensnake. These agreements were enabled through Ontario Regulation 242/08 (prior to the July 1, 2013 amendment).
- Ten activities have been registered for this species. The activities were registered under ‘Drainage works’ (section 23.9), ‘Ecosystem protection’ (section 23.11), ‘Species protection, recovery activities’ (section 23.17) and ‘Threats to health and safety, not imminent’ (section 23.18) under Ontario Regulation 242/08 of the ESA.
Occurrences and distribution:
- Twenty six populations of Queensnake have been documented in Ontario, west of the Niagara Escarpment and south of Georgian Bay. Currently, 11 of these populations are extant, 13 are considered historical, whereas the remaining two are considered extirpated. Since 2008, the status of seven of these populations changed from extant to historical as the populations have not been recorded within the last 20 years. Three populations changed from historical to extant as their existence was re-confirmed through monitoring efforts, including one that had not been observed since 1883. No new populations of Queensnake have been identified since 2008.
- Categorizing and Protecting Habitat under the Endangered Species Act
- Habitat Regulation Summary for Queensnake
- Natural Heritage Information Centre
- Ontario’s Endangered Species Act
- Ontario’s Endangered Species Act Regulation 242/08
- Ontario Recovery Strategy and Government Response Statement for Queensnake
- Policy Guidance on Harm and Harass under the Endangered Species Act
- Species at Risk in Ontario List
- Species at Risk Stewardship Fund
COSEWIC. 2010. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Queensnake Regina septemvittata in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vii + 34 pp.
Edelsparre, A. and McCarter, J. 2015. Shaping the Future of Queensnake Conservation in Canada: A Collaborative Approach. The Canadian Herpetologist. 5(2) 22 pp.
Environment Canada. 2016. Recovery Strategy for the Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. 25 pp. + Annexes.
Environment Canada. 2011. Canada-Ontario Agreement on Species at Risk. Administrative Agreements. Environment Canada, Ottawa: http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/document/default_e.cfm?documentID=2222
Huron Stewardship Council. 2013. A Stewardship Guide for Queensnake. http://hsc.huronstewardship.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/01/final-queensnake-stewardship-guide.pdf
Reid, S.M. and Nocera J.J. 2015. Composition of native crayfish assemblages in southern Ontario rivers affected by Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes rusticus Girard, 1852) invasions – implications for endangered queensnake recovery. Aquatic Invasions. 10(2) pp 189-198.
- footnote Back to paragraph A population is defined as an area of land and/or water on/in which an element (i.e., Queensnake) is or was present. They are comprised of one or more observations and the area has a practical conservation value as it is important to the conservation of the species. An element occurrence is the technical term used to describe this.
- footnote Back to paragraph A population is considered historical if it has not been recorded within the last 20 years. Historical populations may still exist, but updated information is not available.