Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority

Reptile Species at Risk

Reptile Species at Risk in Ausable Bayfield Watersheds


Since the summer of 2002, the Ausable River Recovery Team has spent considerable time documenting the species at risk in the Ausable River watershed. Reptile surveys have been conducted resulting in the discovery of concentrated pockets of Eastern Spiny Softshell Turle, Map Turtle, and Queen Snake populations.


In all, the Ausable River is home to 20 species at risk, including six fishes, six mussels and eight reptiles.

Reptile Species

Reptiles have roamed the Earth for more than 200 million years. Today, reptiles are facing alarming rates of population decline because of their sensitivity to rapid environmental changes brought about by humans. A number of factors contribute to species decline, including: habitat destruction, traffic mortality, predators, contaminants, illegal poaching for the pet trade, introduced species and persecution. The following three reptiles are considered at risk in the Ausable River.

Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle
(Apalone spinifera spinifera)
The Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle is the only soft-shelled turtle species native to Canada. Very different from other turtles, its olive-brown shell is extremely flat and leathery like a pancake and it has a long, tubular snout. This species favours rivers with soft bottoms, aquatic vegetation and abundant basking locations such as riverbanks, sandbars, mudflats or logs. The population distribution of the Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle is discontinuous across southwestern Ontario and Quebec.
*THREATENED* (Last examined by COSEWIC in 2002)

Photo: Scott Gillingwater, UTRCA

Map Turtle
(Graptemys geographica)
The Map Turtle is a large turtle that is often confused with Painted and Blanding's Turtles. Its shell has a ridge running down the centre and is olive brown in colour with yellow lined pattern resembling contour lines on a map. The Map Turtle is known for basking communally. It prefers rivers with slow moving water, soft bottoms, plentiful aquatic vegetation and ample basking locations. Map Turtle populations are known from southern Ontario and Quebec.
*SPECIAL CONCERN* (Last examined by COSEWIC in 2002)

Photo: Scott Gillingwater, UTRCA

Common Snapping Turtle
(Chelydra serpentina)
*SPECIAL CONCERN* (Last examined by COSEWIC in 2008)

Spotted Turtle
(Clemmys guttata)
*ENDANGERED* (Last examined by COSEWIC in 2004)

Blanding's Turtle
(Emys blandingii or Emydoidea blandingii)
*THREATENED* (Last examined by COSEWIC in 2005)

Stinkpot or Eastern Musk Turtle
(Sternotherus odoratus)
*THREATENED* (Last examined by COSEWIC in 2002)

Queen Snake
(Regina septemvittata)
The Queen Snake is a small, timid aquatic snake that reaches an average length of 40-60 cm. It has an olive-brown coloured back with 3-5 dark stripes and its belly is yellow with 4 distinct brown stripes. The Queen Snake is the only snake species in Ontario that has a striped belly. Its favoured habitat is small, clear rivers where there is permanent flow, good rock/vegetative cover, warm temperatures and an abundance of crayfish. The Queen Snake is at its northern range limit in southwestern Ontario.
*ENDANGERED* (Last examined by COSEWIC in 2010)

Status History: Designated Threatened in April 1999. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in April 2010.

Photo: Scott Gillingwater, UTRCA


Milk Snake
(Lampropeltis triangulum)
*SPECIAL CONCERN* (Last examined by COSEWIC in 2002)

Fish Species at Risk in the Ausable River

Mussel Species at Risk in the Ausable River

Reptile Species at Risk Advanced Workshop

Close to 50 people attended advanced workshop in Grand Bend to learn how to protect local reptile species at risk

Scales Nature Park and Ausable Bayfield Conservation worked together to bring advanced workshop to this watershed for first time

Almost 50 people took part in an advanced workshop in Grand Bend on Wednesday, November 26 to find out how they can protect local reptile species at risk including turtles.

“I was very happy to find so many people interested in our local species at risk and pleased to have them express interest in protecting turtles and other reptiles,” said Kari Jean, Aquatic Biologist with Ausable Bayfield Conservation. “The workshop was an amazing chance to interact with turtles and snakes, thanks to Scales Nature Park.”

Attendees at the workshop learned how to identify species, their life history, and their conservation status (threatened or endangered, for instance). They also learned some ways to protect these species and their habitat.

A Community Turtle Monitoring Program has taken place in the Port Franks and Grand Bend areas for five years. Local people submit sightings of turtles to Ausable Bayfield Conservation to help monitor their local numbers over the long term. Community sightings are also reported to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Ausable Bayfield Conservation added nest protection to the program in 2014. People can help give hatchlings a head start this way. They can call Ausable Bayfield Conservation to ask for cages for the nest to protect against predators that eat turtle eggs.

To find out to get involved in the protection of local species at risk call Kari at Ausable Bayfield Conservation at 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610 or email kjean(at)

For information on reptile species at risk in Ausable Bayfield watersheds type the word ‘reptile’ into the search box of the website home page at Then press ‘Search.’ This will take you to the reptile species-at-risk page at:

Scales Nature Park is a 21-hectare conservation area located just south of Orillia, Ontario. The people at Scales Nature Park focus on conserving fish, amphibians, reptiles and the habitats these animals require. A nature centre at the park provides a home for Canada’s most complete live collection of native reptiles and amphibians. These animals play an important role in outreach at the site. One thing that is special about Scales Nature Park is how much they promote chances for people to connect with the animals. People can, in many cases, touch or hold these important animals. “We feel this is an important part of learning about them, and we hope you’ll give it a try,” according to the Scales Nature Park website.

Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) is an independent, corporate body established under the Conservation Authorities Act in Ontario. The watersheds are located in Southwestern Ontario and border the shores of Lake Huron. Ausable Bayfield Conservation is the first of 36 conservation authorities formed across Ontario.

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