When the rare species act became effective in 2008, the Lake Erie water snake had already been declared endangered. This species was later reassessed in June 2016 and declared as special concern. ‘’Special concern’’ means that the different species living in Ontario are not threatened or endangered, but they can become endangered or threatened when exposed to a combination of identified threats and biological characteristics. The Erie water snakes and numerous other snakes which give birth were previously included in the Colubridae family, but they were later placed in the Natricidae family.
The common breeding season for this species is between May and June. Unlike other snakes which lay eggs, these species give birth to live young. The female water snakes develop the eggs inside their bodies and then give birth in early autumn or late summer. Each young water snake is between 7.5 to 9.1 inches long. A pregnant water-snake can give birth to an average of 27 young ones, but the litter size ranges from nine to fifty. These young snakes are usually born from August to October, and the mothers never take care of them. Once they are born, the young snakes are on their own. The female water snakes reach sexual maturity at three years old, while the male reaches maturity at two years.
The water snakes are always active both at night and during the day. During daytime, these snakes look for food among plants on the edge of the lake. The water snakes hunt using both sight and smell. Water snakes love basking on the river banks and can dive any time water is disturbed. These snakes tend to flee when in danger, but if cornered they defend themselves. Water snake species are great swimmers, but they can only be located about ten feet below the water surface and 165 feet from the shore.
Habitat and Range
Lake Erie Water snake are mostly found on the shorelines of the western Lake Erie islands, including Pelee Island. These snake species are usually found basking or hiding along the crevices, ledges, and limestone rocks on the shoreline. These water snakes are also located where vegetation, debris, and logs provide cover on the shorelines. This species tends to hibernate inland in all the underground crevices, burrows and dens.
These snakes feed on salamanders, leeches, worms, frogs, small birds, and small fish, among other small mammals during the day. At night, the water snakes feed on the minnows and various minute fish which sleep on the shallow waters. The Lake Erie water snake species was once endangered, but the introduction of the round Goby species in their diet has helped increase their population. Ordinarily, these snakes swallow their prey whole head first, but occasionally may carry bigger fish to the shore before they consume them.
The Lake Erie water snakes are medium to dark brown with faint alternating reddish or dark horizontal bands on the sides and back. However various snakes are slate grey and the bands on them ranges from faint reddish/dark to pronounced reddish/dark. These snakes have a grey to light yellow belly, and their scales are keeled. This means that the scales are ridged in the middle which gives them a rough appearance instead of the normal shiny appearance.