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Chat Week 2000 Transcript
12/13/00 -
Jeff Hathaway
Herping Ontario

JeffB - How many species of herps are found in Canada?
Jeff Hathaway - depends on how you count subspecies, etc. ~45 species if I recall correctly.
JeffB - thats more than I expected
Jeff Hathaway - 44 species off the top of my head

matt2- Jeff do you have a site online
Jeff Hathaway - our site is
Jeff Hathaway - still under development but coming along slowly
Jeff Hathaway - thanks to jonathon crowe for doing the web programming

BobM- ok, the first thing that comes to mind when i think of ontario is im wondering how diff herps thermoregulate so much to keep warm and also what herps do u see most when herping up there? Thanks!
Jeff Hathaway - many herps bask, the same as they do elsewhere, remember that our summer temps are quite warm, but the season is shorter
BobM- oh, really? wow didnt know that
Jeff Hathaway - most species hibernate for long periods, oct-nov to mar-apr or may

BradS - Are their any boid species that live in Canada?
Jeff Hathaway - only one- the rubber boa, Charina bottae? in British columbia (west coast)

ClintG - Why don't you tell us a bit about what you are doing as far as education and conservation work
Jeff Hathaway - well, our main thing is educational programs, which are full-time for my partner Jenny, and I help her out as much as I can, lately I've been getting more into hands on conservation projects since leaving my full time job, for example, building a pond at a herp-focused wildlife centre on Pelee Island, and hibernacula

LanceT- Where are good spots to go herping here to possibly see a variety of our different species?
Jeff Hathaway - Some good spots- Pelee Island, Point Pelee Nat'l Park, Long Point, Georgian Bay Islands, Charleston Lake PP
LanceT- Best time of year?
Jeff Hathaway - depends what you want to see, June, probably the best

reptiman - are there any lizards that live in ontario? if so what kinds.
Jeff Hathaway - the only lizard in Ontario is the 5-lined skink, Eumeces fasciatus
reptiman - how big does it get
Jeff Hathaway - not large, ~15cm or 6" total length

sheridanS - what venomous snakes are in ontario if any?
Jeff Hathaway - only remaining one is the eastern massasauga, Sistrurus catenatus... Timber rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus, was wiped out of the couple of localities it occurred in the 1800's

s-stick - maybe you touch upon the importance of the Pelee Island project
Jeff Hathaway - well, I think it is important for a bunch of reasons. First, Pelee Island is home to the largest concentration of endangered herps in Canada, mostly due to its location...
Jeff Hathaway - Second, it is a project that non-academics can get involved with, which is not exactly common for herp related stuff

JeffB - in he US we have a problem with non-native species such as the med gecko. Are their any foreign invaders established in canada?
Jeff Hathaway - Due to our climate, exotic herp introductions are rare and unlikely. Red-eared slider have a foothold in southern Ontario, bullfrogs are introduced into BC, and the odd florida softshell turns up, but that's about it. Exotic fish and molluscs are a big problem though

BobM- my question is similar to jeffs...have u ever found any herps that were relocated to canada from the us and if so what was the herp?
Jeff Hathaway - I have seen red-eareds in the 'wild' at High Park in Toronto- dozens of them. Once I found a corn snake in a driveway in Guelph...
Jeff Hathaway - the owner of the house called me. As it turned out, I knew the snake, my friend's roomate who lived next door had lost it.
BobM- also... are there any endangered herps in Ontario
Jeff Hathaway - endangered herps? Federally listed as Endangered are: Blue Racer, Lake Erie Watersnake, Timber Rattlesnake...
Jeff Hathaway - Ontario threatened species include Black Rat, eastern fox, spiny softshell, wood turtle, spotted turtle, blanchard's cricket frog... all of this is changing since we have a new Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, and maybe a Federal Species At Risk Act soon

ClintG - what laws are there governing the keeping of Native Ontario Species?
Jeff Hathaway - Provincial law governing native species- Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act... It designates some herps as 'game' or 'specially protected', I refer to species which are unclassified as 'non-SP' (garters, etc).. it is illegal to collect ANY herp from the wild without a permit or license. you can get a permit to keep a legally acquired specimen

John Hewlett - How long is the ontario herping season?
Jeff Hathaway - varies greatly depending on location and species. I saw garters, and eastern fox snakes active on Pelee in late October. Meanwhile, some areas of central ontario had snow, and northern Ontario already had frozen lakes. This province is very large with a wide range of climatic zones

LanceT- A weekend at Georgian Bay Islands sounds like it would be a fun family trip, what could we expect to see there?, and what would constitute a "legally aquired speciman"?
Jeff Hathaway - Georgian Bay Islands has the largest diversity of Canadian herps. Highlights to see could include massasaugas, fox, hognose, many salamanders, map turtles...
Jeff Hathaway - water snakes are very common... legal specimens are ones which are given to you from a legal source, or that you purchase from a legal source (if you get a permit to purchase)

phm - what is the coolest snake u could realistically find herping ontario ? ..... example scarlet king etc.
Jeff Hathaway - coolest is very subjective. I think my favorite would be eastern hognose, since I have only seen a juvenile. A full displaying adult would be awesome, and I hope to see one soon:-). I saw my first wild blue racer this summer- that was cool!

ratrace - what are they laws about having herps thats not native to Canada?? Thank you
Jeff Hathaway - There are no federal or provincial laws (in Ontario) concerning the keeping of exotic herps.. each municipality has its own by-laws, though, which vary considerably
Jeff Hathaway - If anyone wants detailed info on the herp laws in Ontario, email me later. This isn't the best place to go into the exact details

JeffB - ok... are any of the herps in Ontario nocturnal?
Jeff Hathaway - nocturnal Ontario herps- eastern milk snake, brown snake, red-bellied snake, most salamanders and frogs, off the top of my head. Not strictly nocturnal though.

matt2- have you seen the large gartersnake dens as we seen on tv here in canada
Jeff Hathaway - you mean the red-sided garter dens at Narcisse, Manitoba? No, I haven't seen them personally. Our Ontario eastern garters do hibernate communally but not en masse in quite the same numbers...
Jeff Hathaway - that is actually a trait that allows the red-sided to survive farther north than any other snake in North America- into the northwest territories, by using such massive numbers in underground hibernacula

BobM- ok.. you mentioned before that the wood turtle is on ontarios endangered species list, well they are endangered here as just wondering what the reason for the decline in population of them is?
Jeff Hathaway - my guesses- habitat loss and fragmentation, road kill, increased predation by raccoon populations that are unnaturally supported by human activity, and illegal collection... it is one of the few species where illegal collection has actually had a significant impact
Jeff Hathaway - there are only 3 verified wood turtle populations remaining in Ontario, estimated pop. less than 200
BobM- they are great turtles
Jeff Hathaway - Yeah, I love them. We have two CB for our shows.

ClintG - what native species are you keeping currently? What's on your wish list?
Jeff Hathaway - current native species is a long list- e. fox, e. hognose, black rat, e. milk, water, e. garter., butlers garter, red-sided garter, brown, smooth green, e. massasauga, turtles: wood, spotted, midland & western painted, snapper, stinkpot, e. spiny softshell,blandings, five-lined skink, salamanders: yellow spot, red-backed, eastern newt (adult & eft), frogs: green, leopard, bull, gray tree, wood, toad... I think that's all, might have missed something. Wish list- COMMON MAP TURTLES! can't find legal specimens anywhere:-(, have a CB queen snake on hold for me in the US
Jeff Hathaway - should note- all species listed are covered under our Ministry of Natural Resources zoo license

kilembrin - Mr.Hathway I was wondering if you have done any work with the Northern Copperhead??
Jeff Hathaway - never. They do not occur in Ontario, and I have never seen one in the wild in the US. No interest in keeping venomous herps except for use in our educational programs.

LanceT- Are there any breeding projects going on to help re-establish our endangered or threatened species? i.e. the timber rattler -- it thrives in the u.s., why not re-introduce it here again through breeding programs? Or help out our wood turtle this way. There used to be tons of them (wood turtles) where I lived in Nova Scotia. We actually had a pond dug on our property, and they did very well. Mind you, this was over 15 years ago.
Jeff Hathaway - we could spend an hour just on this. Reintroduction projects are tightly regulated by the MNR, as they should be. It isn't so easy to just breed stuff and release it. For something to go ahead, there must be public support (good luck with timber rattlesnakes) and the underlying reasons why the species declined must be corrected...
Jeff Hathaway - this is difficult where habitat loss is the prime factor. There are currently no reintroduction projects underway, although there are preliminary plans happening to reintroduce the extirpated Blanchard's cricket frog to Pelee Island...
Jeff Hathaway - the centre we discussed earlier is active with this, and the pond we put in could end up being the re-introduction site. Long term, I would like to see blue racers repatriated to Pinery PP.

phm - Sorry to here that about the wood turtle population...... I used to live in B.C. and I lifted a peice of plywood up and there were dozens and dozens of garter snakes some with red stripes and some with yellow stripes. There were all sizes and it was in the summertime is this different behavior than the hibernation groups in Ontario ?
Jeff Hathaway - you can find similar assortments of garters in Ontario, if you look. Behaviour is the same, and there is considerable colour variation.

Rafiki - how do you legally acquire a specimen if all native herps are illegal to collect?
Jeff Hathaway - if one is given to you from a legal source- i.e. I gave you one of my baby water snakes, or if you buy one from a legal source if you get a permit to purchase... also, if you are a farmer, on your own land, you can legally collect non-SP herps like garter snakes. Also, you can catch leopard frogs for bait, bullfrogs & snappers for food with a fishing license...
Jeff Hathaway - NON-SP herps can be purchased without a permit. There are actually people who breed eastern garters in captivity.
Jeff Hathaway - like I said, the details of the laws are best discussed over email- there are a lot of nuances.

SteveM- If someone wanted to participate in volunteer field work (ie: census) or just field trips to go look for critters, could they contact the Ontario Herp. Society and get involved?? 8)
Jeff Hathaway - yes, they can find the OHS website through the links section of our site, can't remember the OHS url off the top of my head. There are several projects hopefully happening in the spring for people to get involved with, whether they are active with the OHS or not.
Jeff Hathaway - For example, there will be more work at Pelee doing microhabitat creation and herp surveys, a turtle survey at another location, and I'm hoping for an artificial pond and hibernaculum site right here in Toronto.

JeffB - ok.... If I were to go to canada to go field herping this summer what are some of the essentials I should bring
Jeff Hathaway - bug repellent, sunscreen, good foot wear, clothes to trash, a field guide and a map would be a good start.

matt2- considering there is poaching everywhere..what herp is most likey do certain "collectors?" go for there and have you encountered them?
Jeff Hathaway - My biggest concern for poaching would be turtles, particularly spotted and wood since they command $200ish price tags in the US. This has occurred in the past.
Jeff Hathaway - I have to laugh though at people who think that things like 5-lined skinks are at a big risk for poaching, considering how hard the things are to catch, and the fact that they sell for a buck in the US. You make more money collecting beer bottles.
Jeff Hathaway - To collect reptiles, in most cases, you would need a Scientific collection permit, or a Permit to Collect Reptiles and Amphibians for the Purpose of Keeping in Captivity. Both are hard to get.

BobM - Jeff, If I ever wanted to go field herping Ontario, are there any select places that u have found herping to be great and what are those places?
Jeff Hathaway - Most of the best places are provincial or national parks like Georgian Bay Islands, Bruce Peninsula, Point Pelee, Pelee Island, Charleston Lake, Long Point, etc...
Jeff Hathaway - If you really want to see native herps, come with me to Pelee Island and volunteer for a weekend. Guaranteed to see lots of stuff, probably more species than anywhere else.

CB - what is the largest species of snake in canada, and how many hot species are there?
Jeff Hathaway - Largest species- Black rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta, although Bull snake, Pituophis melanoleucus sayi is about the same size. Bulls are probably larger, on average. Venomous- Eastern Massasauga, Prairie,& North Pacific rattlesnakes

coe - where are hognose snakes located?
Jeff Hathaway - eastern hognoses are limited to Southern Ontario, widespread but reliably only found in a few localities. Western hognoses are found in the prairies, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba
Jeff Hathaway - regrettably, eastern hogs are pretty scarce now. Hopefully we can turn that around. I think that they are one of the few species that may recover just with education alone, as the habitat is still there in most cases.

danhoops - what herps will I find herping in northern Ontario?
Jeff Hathaway - Northern Ontario- how far north?
Jeff Hathaway - Ontario- five lined skink, Manitoba- northern prairie skink. Dan- how far north do you consider? Some people think Muskoka is northern Ontario
danhoops- Up near hudson bay & when's the next Pelee trip?
Jeff Hathaway - Really far north! Eastern garters, red-sided garters, wood frogs, peeper & chorus frogs, blue spotted salamanders. Many species go up to about the French River/ North Bay area. Next Pelee trip will likely be in June, although I may go in April.

LanceT- Do you have a facility that people can visit, or do you strictly do educational seminars through scheduled shows & events?
Jeff Hathaway - we do not have a facility open to the public, though that would be nice if anyones got some serious spare cash they'd like to invest:-) We do public, and private shows and displays throughout Ontario. Did a high school in Cambridge today.

serpentarium1 - Jeff, I was wondering if I could work with you during the summer of 2001. If you can let me i could work with you during June 9 till August 10. I know you might not let people do this but i would really like to get into feild herping and take a Herp course in University.
Jeff Hathaway - I am always interested in help, but realistically we can't pay much. We do use volunteers at times.

s-stick - You've already mentioned adult hognose, what native species haven't you seen in the wild
Jeff Hathaway - There are lots I have yet to see in the wild- massasauga, butler's & RS garter, queen, black rat, spotted, wood & spiny softshell turtle, four-toed salamander to name a few. Some of these things just aren't easy to find.

BobM- Ok, I was wondering since you work a lot with herps up there, if its possible for you to get a special permit to take in endangered species like timber rattlesnakes and wood turtles to try and breed them back to normal numbers of population?
Jeff Hathaway - I'd love to! Despite a few trips to their habitat, I have yet to see one, although I believe I heard one right near my foot under a rock ledge on Franklin Island in '93.
Jeff Hathaway - Our zoo license (which is above and beyond what the average person would apply for to keep a native herp) allows us to purchase, sell, breed, etc. We could breed all the timbers we wanted (that would be just about none) but we are not permitted to release them back into the wild, for a long list of very important reasons.

JeffB - Jeff I want to thank you for being our guest chatter tonigh
Jeff Hathaway - thanks to all who participated. I hope some of you will get involved in field herping and conservation activities in Ontario!