Recovery Strategy for the Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Canada - 2016
Part 1 - Federal Addition to the Recovery Strategy for the Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Ontario, prepared by Environment and Climate Change Canada
The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of recovery strategies for listed Extirpated, Endangered, and Threatened species and are required to report on progress within five years after the publication of the final document on the SAR Public Registry.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Queensnake and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (now the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the Queensnake (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Parks Canada Agency.
Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Parks Canada Agency, or any other jurisdiction alone. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Queensnake and Canadian society as a whole.
This recovery strategy will be followed by one or more action plans that will provide information on recovery measures to be taken by Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Parks Canada Agency and other jurisdictions and/or organizations involved in the conservation of the species. Implementation of this strategy is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.
The recovery strategy sets the strategic direction to arrest or reverse the decline of the species, including identification of critical habitat to the extent possible. It provides all Canadians with information to help take action on species conservation. When critical habitat is identified, either in a recovery strategy or an action plan, there may be future regulatory implications, depending on where the critical habitat is identified. SARA requires that critical habitat identified within a national park named and described in Schedule 1 to the Canada National Parks Act, the Rouge National Urban Park established by the Rouge National Urban Park Act, a marine protected area under the Oceans Act, a migratory bird sanctuary under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 or a national wildlife area under the Canada Wildlife Act be described in the Canada Gazette, after which prohibitions against its destruction will apply. For critical habitat located on other federal lands, the competent minister must either make a statement on existing legal protection or make an order so that the prohibition against destruction of critical habitat applies. For any part of critical habitat located on non-federal lands, if the competent minister forms the opinion that any portion of critical habitat is not protected by provisions in or measures under SARA or other Acts of Parliament, or the laws of the province or territory, SARA requires that the Minister recommend that the Governor in Council make an order to prohibit destruction of critical habitat. The discretion to protect critical habitat on non-federal lands that is not otherwise protected rests with the Governor in Council.
Judith Jones, Winter Spider Eco-Consulting, prepared the initial draft of this addition under the direction of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada. Thanks are extended to The Nature Conservancy Canada and the Huron Stewardship Council for providing information from 2012-2013 field work and to Joe Crowley for the use of the photograph on the cover. Bruna Peloso (formely Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service - Ontario), Angela McConnell, Madeline Austen, Angela Darwin, Kathy St. Laurent, Lee Voisin and Lesley Dunn (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service - Ontario), Paul Johanson (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service - National Capital Region), Joe Crowley, Jay Fitzsimmons, and Aileen Wheeldon (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry), Michael Oldham (Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre) and Cavan Harpur, Michael Patrikeev, Jeff Truscott, Gary Allen (Parks Canada Agency) reviewed and provided comments and advice during the development of this document.
Acknowledgement and thanks is given to all other parties that provided advice and input used to help inform the development of this recovery strategy including various Aboriginal organizations and individuals, landowners, citizens and stakeholders who provided input and/or participated in consultation meetings.
Additions and Modifications to the Adopted Document
The following sections have been included to address specific requirements of the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) that are not addressed in the Province of Ontario's Recovery Strategy for the Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Ontario (Part 2) and to provide updated or additional information.
Under SARA, there are specific requirements and processes set out regarding the protection of critical habitat. Therefore, statements in the provincial recovery strategy referring to protection of the species' habitat may not directly correspond to federal requirements. Recovery measures dealing with the protection of habitat are adopted; however, whether these measures will result in protection of critical habitat under SARA will be assessed following publication of the final federal recovery strategy.
1. Species Status Information
The Queensnake is listed as Endangered Footnote 3 on Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). In Ontario, the Queensnake is listed as Endangered Footnote 4 under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 (S.O. 2007, ch 6) (ESA). It is also designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (S.O. 1997, c.41).
The global conservation status Footnote 5 for Queensnake is Secure (G5) (Appendix A). It is Nationally Imperilled (N2) in Canada and Nationally Secure (N5) in the United States (Appendix A). The species is Imperilled (S2) in Ontario while its status ranges from Secure to Extirpated in the 23 American states where it has been recorded (NatureServe 2014) (Appendix A). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers the Queensnake of "Least Concern" Footnote 6 (van Dijk 2013).
Approximately 5% of the global range of Queensnake occurs in Canada (COSEWIC 2010).
2. Recovery Feasibility Summary
Based on the following four criteria that Environment and Climate Change Canada uses to establish recovery feasibility, recovery of the Queensnake has been deemed feasible.
- Individuals of the wildlife species that are capable of reproduction are available now or in the foreseeable future to sustain the population or improve its abundance.
Yes. There are individuals capable of reproduction remaining in Ontario, which may be able to sustain the species in Canada. COSEWIC (2010) noted the total number of mature individuals in Canada as unknown but estimated it is likely fewer than 2,500. A mark-recapture study (NCC and HSC 2013) estimated one population to have as many as 200 individuals. The size of other populations in the study was unknown due to a limited number of sightings, however, they are suspected to be small (COSEWIC 2010). Neonate Footnote 7 Queensnakes were observed in 2012 (Harvey et al. 2013), providing evidence of successful reproduction in some populations. There are also secure populations within the United States, however, relocating individuals from the United States to Canada to sustain Canadian populations would require further study and the use of reintroduction techniques which, to date, have not been investigated.
- Sufficient suitable habitat is available to support the species or could be made available through habitat management or restoration.
Yes. Sufficient habitat is available to support the species. In Ontario, Queensnakes utilize permanent water bodies such as rivers and streams, wet meadows, and marshes (COSEWIC 2010). Although some Queensnake habitat has been lost and/or degraded as a result of urban and agricultural development and invasive species, suitable habitat remains available within the Canadian range. Management and restoration techniques can be used to increase the amount of suitable habitat available for the species in order to help maintain or increase Queensnake populations (COSEWIC 2010; Gillingwater 2011).
- The primary threats to the species or its habitat (including threats outside Canada) can be avoided or mitigated.
Yes. The main threat to this species is habitat loss, degradation, or fragmentation, which may be mitigated through restoration of former habitats and/or avoiding further habitat destruction through legislation, stewardship and landscape planning. Habitat loss or degradation might also be caused by pollution from agricultural activities and by the invasion of non-native plants, such as non-native Common Reed, both of which can successfully be mitigated at a local scale through the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) and other forms of intervention.
Queensnakes are also at risk from direct human persecution and are often killed out of fear or ignorance. Recreational activities (such as angling, all-terrain vehicle [ATV] use, horseback riding, etc) can negatively affect Queensnake and its associated habitats. These threats may be mitigated through implementation of regulations and policies and through general education and outreach.
- Recovery techniques exist to achieve the population and distribution objectives or can be expected to be developed within a reasonable timeframe.
Yes. Recovery techniques such as habitat protection through land acquisition, regulations, zoning, and landscape planning, along with stewardship approaches have been successfully used for some populations (Seburn and Seburn 2000). Some Best Management Practices exist and others could be developed and implemented in a reasonable timeframe to help protect vulnerable populations from the following threats: habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation that is not irreversible; and pollution resulting from agricultural activities. Other techniques such as public awareness/educational materials could be developed and may help address or reduce threats such as intentional killing of individuals and recreational activities within Queensnake habitats. Impacts caused by invasive plant species, such as non-native Common Reed, can be controlled through local interventions (e.g., removal of dense stands). Reintroduction of Queensnake individuals to historic locations might also be considered to augment the Canadian population, if it was deemed to be an appropriate and feasible option.
As described in the provincial recovery strategy (Part 2, section 1.6), habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation; intentional and unintentional human-caused death or disturbance; pollution; and invasive species are the main threats to the Queensnake in Canada.
In addition to the threats outlined in Part 2, another potential threat that may affect the Queensnake is Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) (Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola). This is an emerging disease in wild snakes that causes severe skin lesions, leading to widespread morbidity and mortality (Sleeman 2013; Allender et al. 2015). SFD is currently known to affect at least seven snake species, including the Eastern Foxsnake (Pantherophis gloydi), Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon), Eastern Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum), and Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) (Sleeman 2013; Allender et al. 2015; J. Crowley pers. comm. 2015). SFD has been confirmed in Ontario with an Eastern Foxsnake in southwestern Ontario being confirmed with the disease and several other Eastern Foxsnakes and a Butler's Gartersnake (Thamnophis butleri), also from southwestern Ontario, being suspected of having the disease (J. Crowley pers. comm. 2015). SFD has been found in nine states including New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois and is considered likely to be even more widespread (Sleeman 2013).
The disease can spread directly through contact with infected snakes and may also spread indirectly via environmental exposure (i.e., contaminated soil (Sleeman 2013; Allender et al. 2015). While the population-level effects of SFD remain unclear, it appears to spread easily and is often fatal, and there is concern it could have negative impacts on small snake populations of conservation concern (Sleeman 2013; Allender et al. 2015). For example, SFD is thought to have contributed to a 50% decline in Timber Rattlesnake abundance in New Hampshire from 2006 to 2007 (Sleeman 2013). Climate change has the potential to further increase the risk of SFD to snake populations, as warming temperatures may lead to increased infection rates in hibernating snakes (Allender et al. 2015).
Although the impacts to the Queensnake are currently unknown, this disease may have the potential to spread through direct or indirect contact with infected snakes within the species' range. Further research is required to determine the threat it poses to Canadian snake populations and conservation measures must be developed to prevent or limit outbreaks within Canadian snake populations.
4. Population and Distribution Objectives
The provincial recovery strategy contains the following recovery goal for the recovery of Queensnake in Ontario:
- The long-term recovery goal is to halt further declines and to achieve stable or increasing populations of Queensnake in Ontario at all sites with extant occurrences throughout the current distribution and, where and when feasible, at sites within the historic distribution that have suitable habitat.
The Government Response Statement Footnote 8for the province of Ontario lists the following goal for the recovery of the Queensnake in Ontario:
- 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.
Under SARA, a population and distribution objective for the species must be established. Consistent with the goal set out in the Government of Ontario's Government Response Statement, Environment and Climate Change Canada's population and distribution objective for the Queensnake in Canada is to:
- Halt further decline and to achieve stable or increasing populations of Queensnake throughout the species' current Canadian distribution.
Both the distribution and abundance of the Canadian population of Queensnake are not well understood but are suspected of being in decline (COSEWIC 2010). Recent studies reveal that all but one known local population occur in low densities (COSEWIC 2010). This may leave local populations even more vulnerable to extirpation if threatened by habitat loss, invasive species, or direct human persecution. The objective of this recovery strategy is to ensure stable or increasing local populations at all known extant occurrences of Queensnake in Canada.
Reintroduction may play an important role in the recovery of the species at historic sites and in improving the viability of extant local populations. Environment and Climate Change Canada supports investigating the feasibility and appropriateness of reintroducing Queensnake populations at historic locations within the Canadian range.
5. Broad Strategies and General Approaches to Meet Objectives
The government-led and government-supported actions from the Queensnake Ontario Government Response Statement (Part 3) are adopted as the broad strategies and general approaches to meet the population and distribution objective. Environment and Climate Change Canada is not adopting the approaches identified in Section 2 of the Recovery Strategy for the Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Ontario (Part 2).
The adopted broad strategies work towards the recovery of the species, with an emphasis on protection and maintenance and/or expansion of existing populations. Actions, such as the development of a long-term monitoring and survey program, and the identification and location of key habitat features, will help gather critical information about the species’ distribution, abundance, habitat requirements, and life history, which are required in order to focus further recovery efforts (government-supported actions #1 to 4 - Part 3). Concurrently, other types of actions will be undertaken, focusing on the protection and management of extant occurrences, including threat mitigation and public awareness/education (government-supported actions #6 to 11 - Part 3). Environment and Climate Change Canada supports investigating the feasibility and appropriateness of reintroducing Queensnake populations at historic locations within the Canadian range through the adoption of government supported action #5 (Part 3).
5.1 Actions Already Completed or Currently Underway
- As of Jan 1st, 2014, the Queensnake's habitat is protected through a habitat regulation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (Ont. Reg.323/13 s.13; O.Reg. 242/08 s.29).
- Environment and Climate Change Canada has funded projects related to Queensnake conservation in Ontario through the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP). From 2006 to 2012, 26 projects directly benefited Queensnake, and the species will also benefit from six projects that are currently underway. Projects have included activities such as: undertaking targeted surveys; identifying important habitat of local populations; acquisition of properties for habitat conservation; restoration of degraded habitat; studying the severity of and/or mitigating threats; soliciting observations/encouraging public reporting of sightings; and educating landowners and/or the public on species identification, threats, and stewardship options.
- The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and the Huron Stewardship Council have been carrying out significant outreach initiatives and field work focused on the Queensnake in Ontario since 2012. One of the studies, by Harvey et al. (2013), observed 24 Queensnakes along seven waterways in Ontario and documented two potential hibernacula. This study also confirmed several populations as extant, provided details on habitat parameters, and mapped habitat extent. The observations collected result in an expansion of the formerly known distribution of Queensnake by up to 3 km along some of these waterways. Additional studies by the NCC and the Huron Stewardship Council (2012-2013) discovered two live‑birthing and two gestation Footnote 9 sites, and three areas with potential hibernacula were identified (Choquette et al. 2013; Edelsparre et al. 2014).
Choquette et al. (2013) reported an increase of the known distribution of the Queensnake in Huron County, from approximately 52 km² (prior to 2011) to 68 km². This increase in known distribution is likely a result of a greater survey effort and does not necessarily indicate an increase in population size.
Data collected from these recent studies has provided information on parameters required for habitat suitability and abundance of Queensnakes that helps estimate the overall Canadian Queensnake population size. Furthermore, these studies provide an indication of the large survey effort required to locate and observe this secretive species.
6. Critical Habitat
6.1 Identification of the Species' Critical Habitat
Section 41 (1)(c) of SARA requires that recovery strategies include an identification of the species' critical habitat, to the extent possible, as well as examples of activities that are likely to result in its destruction. Under SARA, critical habitat is "the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species' critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species".
Identification of critical habitat is not a component of the provincial recovery strategy under the Province of Ontario's ESA. However, following the completion of the provincial recovery strategy for this species, a provincial habitat regulation was developed for the Queensnake, and came into force January 1, 2014. A habitat regulation is a legal instrument that prescribes an area that will be protected Footnote 10 as the habitat of the species by the Province of Ontario. The habitat regulation identifies the geographic area within which the habitat for the species is prescribed and the regulation may apply, and explains how the boundaries of regulated habitat are determined (based on biophysical and other attributes). The regulation is dynamic and automatically in effect whenever the condition(s) described in the regulation are met within the specified geographic area.
Environment and Climate Change Canada adopts the description of the Queensnake habitat under section 29 of Ontario Regulation 242/08 Footnote 11 made under the provincial ESA as the critical habitat in the federal recovery strategy. The area defined under Ontario's habitat regulation contains the biophysical attributes required by the Queensnake to carry out its life cycle processes. To meet specific requirements of SARA, the biophysical attributes of critical habitat are further detailed below ( Table 1 ).
The areas prescribed under Ontario Regulation 242/08 - Queensnake habitat are described as follows:
29. (1) For the purpose of clause (a) of the definition of "habitat" in subsection 2 (1) of the Act, the areas described in subsection (2) that are located in the geographic areas of Brant, Bruce, Chatham-Kent, Essex, Haldimand, Huron, Lambton, Oxford, Middlesex, Norfolk and Waterloo are prescribed as the habitat of queensnake. O. Reg. 323/13, s. 13.
(2) Subsection (1) applies to the following areas:
- A queensnake hibernaculum.
- All areas within 50 metres of an area described in paragraph 1.
- Any part of a river, stream or other body of water or marsh that is below the high water mark and that,
- is being used, or has been used at any time in the previous five years, by a queensnake,
- is within 250 metres of an area described in subparagraph i, or
- is situated between two or more areas described in subparagraph ii that are within 500 metres of each other and provides suitable conditions for dispersal of queensnake.
- The area adjacent to the part of a river, stream or other body of water or marsh described in subparagraph 3 i or ii and within 30 metres above the relevant high water mark.
- The area adjacent to the part of a river, stream or other body of water or marsh described in subparagraph 3 iii and within five metres above the relevant high water mark. O. Reg. 323/13, s. 13.
The habitat for the Queensnake is protected under the ESA for any occurrence observed less than 50 years ago, until it has been demonstrated by a qualified professional that Queensnake have been absent for a period of at least five years. Aquatic habitat is protected up to 250m from a known Queensnake occurrence. This distance is based on data which indicate Queensnakes in Ontario will travel up to 250 m and ensures the species' movement corridors are all protected (OMNRF 2014; Gillingwater unpub. data in Gillingwater 2011). Terrestrial habitat (measured from the high water mark) is protected up to a distance of 30 m from a known Queensnake occurrence. This distance is based on data that indicate that Queensnake in Ontario travel up to 15 m from the water (Piraino and GIllingwater 2007 in Gillingwater 2011) and is precautionary to ensure that necessary features such as gestation, birthing, shedding, and thermoregulation sites, as well as terrestrial movement corridors remain intact (OMNRF 2014). Movement corridors between observations (that are within 500 m of each other) are also protected to ensure the ability for gene flow and migration between populations (OMNRF 2014).
The area defined under Ontario's habitat regulation contains the biophysical attributes required by Queensnake to carry out its life cycle activities. These biophysical attributes are described in Table 1 .
|Life Cycle Activities||Biophysical Attributes||References|
|Thermoregulation, gestation, live-birthing habitat|
Area adjacent to a river, stream or other body of water (e.g., pond, drainage canal, ditch) or marsh having:
|Campbell (1977); Ernst and Ernst (2003); Gillingwater (2011); Gillingwater and Piraino (2002); Layne and Ford (1983); Wood (1949)|
Biophysical features (either natural or artificial features) that:
|Bauchot (1994); Campbell (1977); Ernst (2003); Gillingwater (2011); Harding (1997); Mattison (1995; 1999)|
River, stream or other body of water; wet meadows or marsh having:
|Behler and King (1988); Branson and Baker (1974); Campbell (1977); Ernst (2003); Ernst and Barbour (1989); Gillingwater (2002); Gillingwater (2011); Mattison (1995, 1999) Wood (1949)|
|Movement (commuting Table Footnote a and dispersal Table Footnote b) habitat||Behler and King (1988); Branson and Baker (1974); Campbell (1977); Ernst (2003); Ernst and Barbour (1989); Gillingwater (2002); Gillingwater (2011); Mattison (1995, 1999) Wood (1949)|
- Footnote 1
Commuting habitat - habitat that supports short distance movements within a home range in order to carry out different life processes (e.g. movements between hibernacula and foraging sites and thermoregulation sites).
- Footnote 2
Dispersal habitat - habitat that supports long distance movements related to emigration/immigration of individuals between populations.
- Footnote 3
Barriers are features that almost completely prevent movement or dispersal of the species, thereby obstructing or severely limiting gene flow (NatureServe 2014b). For example, a dam could be a barrier for aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, such as the Queensnake.
The area within 30 m of the high water mark incorporates the biophysical features that Queensnakes depend on for thermoregulation, gestation, live-birthing, and hibernation. A distance of 250 m up and downstream from a Queensnake observation occurring in a watercourse, or within 250 m of an observation within a marsh ensures seasonal movement areas are protected.
Artifical features used for thermoregulation, cover, shedding, gestation and live-birthing habitat, and hibernation (e.g., geotextiles used for erosion control, bridge foundations) have been included in the identification of critical habitat for the Queensnake to support the species' recovery. Individuals within this population are known to utilize artificial features for various life processes (COSEWIC 2010; Gillingwater 2009; Gillingwater pers. comm. 2016). This reveals that although natural features may be present, anthropogenic features are often utilized for critical life processes (Gillingwater pers. comm. 2016). Given the extent of habitat loss within their range, artificial features are required for the species to successfully carry out its life functions, including reproduction and successfully overwintering. However, it may be possible to replace the function served by artificial features should they need to be removed or disturbed. Such alteration will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration a number of factors including species' biology, potential risk to the species, the availability of natural and artificial features in the surrounding area, and options for mitigation or replacement.
Through this recovery strategy, the areas prescribed as habitat for the Queensnake under section 29 of Ontario Regulation 242/08 become critical habitat identified under SARA. Since the provincial habitat regulation is dynamic and automatically in effect whenever the conditions described in the regulation are met, if any new locations of the Queensnake are confirmed within the geographic areas listed under subsection (1) of the regulation (see Figure 1), the habitat regulation under the ESA applies. Refer to the Habitat Protection Summary for Queensnake (OMNR 2014) for further details on the provincial habitat regulation and its application. Should new occurrences of Queensnake be identified that meet the criteria above, the area will not automatically become critical habitat; however, the additional critical habitat may be identified in an updated recovery strategy or a subsequent action plan.
The identification of critical habitat is based on available observations (up to October 2014) for the Queensnake from the past 50 years. The Queensnake is a secretive species and recent survey effort for some populations is limited, thus it is appropriate to include observations from the past 50 years unless the habitat has been determined to no longer be suitable or the location has been designated as extirpated by the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC). This approach to identify sites as critical habitat is consistent with the approach taken by the OMNRF for habitat regulated under section 29 of Ontario Regulation 242/08.
In applying the critical habitat criteria to the best available data (as of October 2014), critical habitat for the Queensnake is identified at 63 sites in Canada, totaling approximately 1,230 ha Footnote 12 (Figure 2, see also Table 2 ). The critical habitat identified is considered a partial identification of critical habitat, insufficient to meet the population and distribution objective because critical habitat is not identified for all populations of Queensnake throughout the species' current Canadian distribution. A schedule of studies has been developed to provide the information necessary to complete the identification of critical habitat (see section 5.2). Specifically, there are locations that may still support Queensnakes that i) have not been recently or sufficiently surveyed or ii) may be contributing to population viability but critical habitat could not be identified due to insufficient data. Targeted surveys of historic occurrences and areas with anecdotal observations, using proper survey methods to determine detection probabilities, are required.
Critical habitat identified for the Queensnake is presented using a 10 X 10 km UTM grid. This 10 x 10 km UTM grid is part of a standardized grid system that indicates the general geographic areas containing critical habitat which can be used for land use planning and/or environmental assessment purposes, and is a scale appropriate to reduce risks to the species and its habitat (e.g., to persecution and human disturbance). The areas of critical habitat within each grid square occur where the description of critical habitat above is met. More detailed information on the regulated habitat may be requested on a need-to-know basis from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. More detailed information on critical habitat to support protection of the species and its habitat may be requested on a need-to-know basis by contacting Environment and Climate Change Canada - Canadian Wildlife Service at: ec.planificationduretablissement‑firstname.lastname@example.org.
|10 x 10 km Standardized UTM Grid Square ID Table Footnote d||Province/ Territory||UTM Grid Square Coordinates Table Footnote e|
|UTM Grid Square Coordinates Table Footnote e|
|Land Tenure Table Footnote f|
|17LG26||Ontario||320000||4660000||Other Federal Land and Non-Federal Land|
|17LG27||Ontario||320000||4670000||Other Federal Land and Non-Federal Land|
|17LG89||Ontario||380000||4690000||Federal Protected Area (St. Clair National Wildlife Area: St. Clair Unit) and Non-Federal Land|
|17LH80||Ontario||380000||4700000||Federal Protected Area (St. Clair National Wildlife Area: Bear Creek Unit) and Non-Federal Land|
|17MH75||Ontario||470000||4750000||Other Federal Land and Non-Federal Land|
|17MH86||Ontario||480000||4760000||Other Federal Land and Non-Federal Land|
|17MH87||Ontario||480000||4770000||Other Federal Land and Non-Federal Land|
|17MH95||Ontario||490000||4750000||Other Federal Land and Non-Federal Land|
|17MJ44||Ontario||440000||4840000||Other Federal Land and Non-Federal Land|
|17ML60||Ontario||460000||5000000||Federal Protected Area (Bruce Peninsula National Park) and Non-Federal Land|
|17NH31||Ontario||530000||4710000||Federal Protected Area (Big Creek National Wildlife Area: Hahn Unit) and Non-Federal Land|
|17NH41||Ontario||540000||4710000||Federal Protected Area (Big Creek National Wildlife Area: Hahn Unit and Big Creek Unit) and Non-Federal Land|
|17NH57||Ontario||550000||4770000||Other Federal Land and Non-Federal Land|
|17NH71||Ontario||570000||4710000||Federal Protected Area (Long Point National Wildlife Area: Long Point Unit) and Non-Federal Land|
|17NJ50||Ontario||550000||4800000||Other Federal Land and Non-Federal Land|
|Total||-||-||-||31 grid squares|
- Footnote 4
Based on the standard UTM Military Grid Reference System (see http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/earth-sciences/geography-boundary/mapping/topographic-mapping/10098), where the first two digits represent the UTM Zone, the following two letters indicate the 100 x 100 km standardized UTM grid followed by two digits to represent the 10 x 10 km standardized UTM grid containing all or a portion of the critical habitat unit. This unique alphanumeric code is based on the methodology produced from the Breeding Bird Atlases of Canada (See http://www.bsc-eoc.org/ for more information on breeding bird atlases).
- Footnote 5
The listed coordinates are a cartographic representation of where critical habitat can be found, presented as the southwest corner of the 10 x 10 km standardized UTM grid square containing all or a portion of the critical habitat. The coordinates may not fall within critical habitat and are provided as a general location only.
- Footnote 6
Land tenure is provided as an approximation of the types of land ownership that exist where critical habitat has been identified and should be used for guidance purposes only. Accurate land tenure will require cross referencing critical habitat boundaries with surveyed land parcel information.
6.2 Schedule of Studies to Identify Critical Habitat
|Description of Activity||Rationale||Timeline|
|Conduct appropriate surveys at all extant and historic sites to determine presence and/or absence of Queensnake, including the presence of hibernacula. Priority will be given to sites where critical habitat has not been identified. Additional surveys may be conducted at areas known to have suitable habitat.||Collect additional information on species' movements at extant and historical sites to confirm habitat use and identify additional critical habitat (e.g., hibernacula) as appropriate.||2016-2026|
|Conduct studies to determine type (e.g., natural or artificial), site-specific characteristics and extent of hibernacula (e.g., subsurface and internal structure).||Determine numbers and frequency of use of hibernacula to inform critical habitat identification.||2016-2026|
6.3 Activities Likely to Result in the Destruction of Critical Habitat
Understanding what constitutes destruction of critical habitat is necessary for the protection and management of critical habitat. Destruction is determined on a case by case basis. Destruction would result if part of the critical habitat were degraded, either permanently or temporarily, such that it would not serve its function when needed by the species. Destruction may result from a single activity or multiple activities at one point in time or the cumulative effects of one or more activities over time (Government of Canada 2009).
Destruction of critical habitat for the Queensnake can result from activities undertaken at a variety of scales and in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. It may occur from an activity taking place either within or outside of the critical habitat boundary and it may occur in any season of the year. Activities are evaluated based on the species' functional requirements (e.g., foraging, hibernation, movement habitat, etc.) and the portion(s) of impacted area. For example, some activities may not result in the destruction of critical habitat used for movement (commuting and dispersal) provided that barriers to movement are not created, but the same activity may be likely to result in destruction of critical habitat used for live birthing, gestation, thermoregulation, mating, foraging and hibernation habitat. These instances will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine what restrictions or mitigation should be put in place to prevent the destruction of critical habitat (e.g., shoreline development, drainage of wetlands). It may also be possible to mitigate the removal or disturbance of artificial features if necessary. Decisions on potential removal/disturbance and mitigation measures will need to be done on a case-by-case basis.
Activities described in Table 4 are examples of those likely to cause destruction of critical habitat for the species; however, destructive activities are not necessarily limited to those listed.
|Description of activity||Description of effect (biophysical attribute or other)||Location where the activity is likely to destroy critical habitat|
Within the critical habitat unit
Gestation, live-birthing, thermoregu-lation, foraging habitat
|Location where the activity is likely to destroy critical habitat|
Within the critical habitat unit
Movement habitat (Commuting, dispersal )
|Location where the activity is likely to destroy critical habitat|
Within the critical habitat unit
|Location where the activity is likely to destroy critical habitat|
Outside the critical habitat unit
|Activities that reduce or remove shoreline or wetland vegetation or cover objects, and compact substrate Table Footnote g, including activities such as allowing livestock access to aquatic habitats, clearing shorelines for aesthetic reasons, ATV use, horseback riding.||Complete or partial clearing of natural features may cause loss of thermoregulation, gestation, live-birthing, and/or hibernation sites. Removal of natural features and vegetation destroys the suitable features required for Queensnakes to successfully utilize areas for life functions. Such activities (e.g., ATV use, horseback riding) may also lead to soil compaction and removal or relocation of cover objects (both natural and man-made; man-made objects may include geotextiles used for erosion control or snake habitat creation) which remove thermoregulation sites. Queensnakes exhibit high fidelity to cover objects and would be negatively impacted by their removal or relocation. Overgrazing by livestock can destroy critical habitat by removing vegetation or cover objects. Removal of vegetation or other structures could result in changes to critical habitat so that it would no longer provide suitable characteristics such as cover, warmth, and shading, for activities such as live-birthing, thermoregulation, mating, foraging, hibernation and movement.||X||X||X||-|
|Shoreline development (e.g., replacement of natural shoreline with erosion control structures such as gabion baskets, concrete walls or rip-rap).||Changes to the structure and composition of shores/banks (e.g., removal of vegetation, addition of stabilizing materials such as concrete, loss of river or stream meanders and associated fine and coarse substrates) may create unsuitable conditions for hibernation, live-birthing, thermoregulation, and foraging habitat. Shoreline hardening or other structures (e.g., concrete walls) may also impede movement (commuting and dispersal) which may inhibit the Queensnake's ability to access suitable habitat areas. Such activities occurring outside critical habitat may lead to changes in sediment deposition and current flow, and therefore could impact critical habitat leading to its degradation over time.||X||X||X||X|
|Activities that increase nutrient loading, alter water flow and/or degrade water quality (e.g. runoff of contaminated water from agricultural land or urban areas, operation of water control structures, allowing livestock access to aquatic habitats).||Changes in water quality/suitability may occur due to: alteration of water flow rates, depth, temperature, and quality; siltation and sedimentation; and presence of toxins from pollution. These changes might affect not only the Queensnakes, but also their prey, crayfishes, making them unsuitable to support populations of either species. If these activities were to occur outside the bounds of critical habitat, it could result in destruction of critical habitat if the water body or wetland characteristics that contribute to critical habitat suitability are not maintained (e.g., hydrology of critical habitat). Farming practices (e.g., direct livestock access to shorelines and waterways) may lead to alteration of critical habitat. It may cause rutting, erosion, sedimentation, excessive nutrients and removal of vegetation cover through overgrazing which destroys critical habitat.||X||-||X||X|
|Activities that introduce exotic and/or invasive species (e.g. non-native Rusty Crayfish; non-native Common Reed).||Exotic and/or invasive species introduction may lead to degradation or complete loss of gestation, live-birthing, foraging, and thermoregulation habitat.||X||-||-||X|
|Activities that fragment habitat and disrupt water flow, such as the creation of new water control structures.||Dams may permanently fragment suitable habitat and/or create a barrier for Queensnake to access suitable habitat. Alteration of the hydrology through the creation of dams or other water control structures may lead to degradation or elimination of hibernacula, thermoregulation, gestation, and live-birthing sites. High water levels can temporarily or permanently saturate various suitable habitats affecting the possibility of their use by Queensnakes. Recurrent low water levels can promote the growth of vegetation on suitable habitat, preventing access to hibernacula and decreasing the number of foraging sites. If these activities were to occur outside of critical habitat, it could result in the destruction of critical habitat if the water levels that contribute to critical habitat suitability are not maintained (e.g., hydrology of critical habitat).||X||X||X||X|
|Destruction or alteration of features providing hibernacula.||Hibernacula are essential habitat features for the Queensnake. Destruction of, or alteration to, natural and/or man-made structures that provide hibernacula sites may eliminate suitable sites for overwintering, leaving the species unable to complete its annual life cycle. Important features for hibernacula are not well understood at this point (see Schedule of Studies - section 5.2). Some examples of features that might provide hibernation habitat include: bedrock fissures, small mammal burrows and building foundations.||-||-||X||-|
- Footnote 7
The surface on or in which plants, algae, or certain animals, such as barnacles or clams, live or grow. A substrate may serve as a source of food for an organism or simply provide support (The American Heritage Science Dictionary, n.d.).
7. Measuring Progress
The performance indicators presented below provide a way to define and measure progress toward achieving the population and distribution objective. Every five years, success of recovery strategy implementation will be measured against the following performance indicator:
- Declines of queensnake populations have been halted, and stable or increasing population trends have been achieved throughout their current canadian distribution.
8. Statement on Action Plans
One or more action plans for the Queensnake will be posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry by December 31, 2022.
9. Effects on the Environment and Other Species
A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making and to evaluate whether the outcomes of a recovery planning document could affect any component of the environment or any of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy's (FSDS) goals and targets.
Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts upon non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below in this statement.
Recovery measures for the Queensnake will help to maintain riparian and wetland habitats, and the associated hydrology, in a natural state. Many other species that rely on these habitats are under stress from the same threats that affect the Queensnake. Therefore, measures to address threats to the Queensnake and protect its habitat are expected to have beneficial effects for other flora and fauna including rare wet prairie vegetation (Small White Lady's Slipper [Cypripedium candidum]; Eastern Prairie-Fringed Orchid [Platanthera leucophaea]), turtles (Northern Map Turtle [Graptemys geographica]; Spiny Softshell [Apalone spinifera]), frogs, wetland birds, benthic invertebrates, and other snake species. Research activities such as inventory or monitoring will have little or no negative effect on other species, and studies of non-native and invasive crayfish species, in particular, may lead to beneficial results for all species negatively affected by this invasive species. Furthermore, native crayfish, in general, are doing poorly globally (Richman et al. 2015), and efforts directed at their conservation would therefore be beneficial. Outreach and education programs to reduce negative perceptions of Queensnakes will benefit all snake species.
- Alleder, M. C, D. B, Raudabaugh, F. H. Gleason and A. N. Miller. 2015. The natural history, ecology, and epidemiology of Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola and its potential impact on free-ranging snake populations. Fungal Ecology
- Bauchot, R. (ed.). 1994. Snakes: A Natural History. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York. 220 pp.
- Behler, J.L. and F. W. King. 1988. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Chanticleer Press Inc., New York. 744 pp.
- Branson, B.A. and E.C. Baker. 1974. An ecological study of the Queensnake Regina septemvittata(Say) in Kentucky. Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany 18 (4): 153-171.
- Campbell, C.A. 1977. The range, ecology and status of the Queen snake (Regina septemvittata) in Canada. Unpublished report (KIZ10-6-5293) prepared by Campbell, C.A. for the Canadian Wildlife Service. 48 pp.
- Canadian Endangered Species Council (CESCC). 2011. Wild Species 2010: The General Status of Species in Canada. National General Status Working Group. pp. 200-209.
- Choquette, J., S. Rose, and R. White. 2013. Queensnake distribution, recovery and stewardship in Huron County. Summary report of field seasons 2011-2013. Unpublished report prepared for Huron Stewardship Council. Goderich, ON. 39 pp.
- 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.
- Crowley, J. 2015. Personal Communication with CWS Species at Risk Biologist. October 20, 2015.
- Edelsparre, A.H., T.L. Pulfer, J.I. McCarter, R. White, and T. Lobb. 2014. Successful monitoring project of an aquatic reptile. Analyses of 2012 and 2013 Queensnake surveys in the Lower Maitland River, Goderich, Ontario. Unpublished report prepared by University of Toronto, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ontario Nature, Huron Stewardship Council and Huron Field Naturalists. 17 pp.
- Ernst, C.H. and R.W. Barbour. 1989. Snakes of North America. George Mason University Press. Fairfax, Virginia. 282 pp.
- Ernst, C.H. 2003. Natural history of the Queen Snake, Regina septemvittata, in southeastern Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Herpetological Bulletin, Number 85: 2-10.
- Ernst, C.H. and E.M. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 668 pp.
- Gillingwater, S.D. 2002. Reptiles at Risk, Queen Snake. Fact sheet produced by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, London,ON. 2pp.
- Gillingwater, S.D. 2011. Recovery Strategy for the Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Ontario. Ontario Recovery Strategy Series. Prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Ontario. vi + 34 pp.
- Gillingwater, S.D. 2016. Personal Communication with CWS Species at Risk Biologist. February 16, 2016.
- Gillingwater, S.D. and T.J. Piraino. 2002. Rare reptile research and recovery along the Thames River Watershed. Report submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Aylmer, Ontario.
- Government of Canada. 2009. Species at Risk Act Policies, Overarching Policy Framework [Draft]. Species at Risk Act Policy and Guidelines Series. Environment Canada. Ottawa. 38 pp.
- Harding, J. 1997. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Great Lakes Region. University of Michigan Press. Chicago, IL. 378 pp.
- Harvey, D., M. Ihrig, J. McCarter, E. Milne, and T. Pulfer. 2013. Province-wide survey of the Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Ontario: Final report 3/2013. Unpublished report prepared for the Nature Conservancy Canada, Guelph, Ontario. 37 pp.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - IUCN. (2012). IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. Second edition (PDF: 629 kb; 38 pages). Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN. iv + 32pp. Web site: [accessed November 25th, 2014].
- Layne, J.R. and N.B. Ford. 1983. Flight distance of the Queen Snake, Regina septemvittata. Journal of Herpetology 18(4): 496-498.
- Mattison, C. 1995. The Encyclopedia of Snakes. Checkmark Books, New York, New York. 256 pp.
- Mattison, C. 1999. Snake. Firefly Publishing, London. 192 pp.
- Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) and Huron Stewardship Council (HSC). 2013. Stewardship, Recovery and Threat Mitigation for Two Endangered Reptiles: Queensnake and Wood Turtle; Interim report 11/15/2013. Unpublished report prepared for the Nature Conservancy Canada, Guelph, Ontario. 29 pp.
- NatureServe. 2014. Queensnake. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. [accessed February 24, 2014].
- NatureServe. 2014b. Glossary - Separation Barriers. [accessed February 2, 2015].
- Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR). 2014. Habitat Protection Summary for Queensnake. [accessed October 2014].
- Piraino, T.J. and S.D. Gillingwater. 2007. The Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata) and Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera) along the Upper Thames River Watershed 2007. Report submitted to the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority in Gillingwater, S.D. 2011. Recovery Strategy for the Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Ontario. Ontario Recovery Strategy Series. Prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Ontario. vi + 34 pp.
- Richman, N.I. et al. 2015 Multiple drivers of decline in the global status of freshwater crayfish (Decapoda: Astacidea). Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 370: 20140060.
- Seburn, D.C., and C.N.L. Seburn. 2000. Conservation priorities for the amphibians and reptiles of Canada. Prepared for World Wildlife Fund Canada and Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network. 92 pp.
- Sleeman, J. 2013. Snake Fungal Disease in the United States. National Wildlife Heath Centre Wildlife Health Bulletin. 2013-02. USGS.
- The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. (n.d.). substrate. [accessed December 2014].
- Van Dijk, P.P. 2013. Regina septemvittata. The Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. [accessed July 2014].
- Wood, J.T. 1949. Observations of Natrix septemvittata (Say) in Southwestern Ontario. The American Midland Naturalist 42(3): 744:750.
Appendix A: Subnational Conservation Ranks of Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) in Canada and the United States
|Global (G) Rank||National (N) Rank (Canada)||Sub-national (S) Rank (Canada)||National (N) Rank (United States)||Sub-national (S) Rank (United States)|
|G5||N2||Ontario (S2)||N5||Alabama (S5), Arkansas (S2), Delaware (S1), District of Columbia (S1), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S4), Indiana (S4), Kentucky (S4), Maryland (S5), Michigan (S4), Mississippi (S3), Missouri (SX), New Jersey (S1), New York (S1), North Carolina (S4), Ohio (SNR), Pennsylvania (S3), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S5), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S4), Wisconsin (S1)|
Rank Definitions (natureserve 2014)
- S1: Critically Imperilled -
- At very high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction (i.e., N - nation, or S -state/province) due to very restricted range, very few populations or occurrences, very steep declines, severe threats, or other factors.
- N2/S2: Imperilled -
- At high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to restricted range, few populations or occurrences, steep declines, severe threats, or other factors.
- S3: Vulnerable:
- At moderate risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors.
- S4: Apparently Secure:
- At a fairly low risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to an extensive range and/or many populations or occurrences, but with possible cause for some concern as a result of local recent declines, threats, or other factors.
- G5/N5/S5: Secure -
- At very low risk of extinction or elimination due to a very extensive range, abundant populations or occurrences, and little to no concern from declines or threats.
- SNR: Unranked -
- National or subnational conservation status not yet assessed.
- SX: Presumed Extirpated--
- Species or ecosystem is believed to be extirpated from the jurisdiction (i.e., nation, or state/province). Not located despite intensive searches of historical sites and other appropriate habitat, and virtually no likelihood that it will be rediscovered.
Text Content Footnote
- Footnote 3
Endangered (SARA): A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction in Canada.
- Footnote 4
Endangered (ESA): A species that lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.
- Footnote 5
Global, national and state conservation ranks and their definitions are listed in Appendix A.
- Footnote 6
A taxon is Least Concern when it has been evaluated against the criteria and does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category (IUCN, 2012).
- Footnote 7
A newborn snake.
- Footnote 8
The Government Response Statement is the Ontario government's policy response to the scientific advice provided in the recovery strategy.
- Footnote 9
- Footnote 10
Under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), there are specific requirements and processes set out regarding the protection of critical habitat. Protection of critical habitat under SARA will be assessed following publication of the final federal recovery strategy.
- Footnote 11
- Footnote 12
This is a maximum extent of critical habitat based on habitat boundaries estimated from available geospatial layers (e.g., water bodies) and high resolution aerial photography. Actual critical habitat occurs only in those areas described in subsection 2 of the provincial regulation for Queensnake habitat and, therefore, the actual area could be less than this and would require field verification.
- Date Modified: