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McMaster Ecohydrology Lab

Examining Turtle and Snake Habitats

Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)
Eastern foxsnake (Panterophis gloydi)
Eastern hog-nosed snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
Eastern musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

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Project Details

Project Title: Ecohydrological Assessment of Impacts and Mitigation Measures for Reptile Species at Risk Habitat 2020
Funding Recipient: McMaster Ecohydrology Lab
Funding Awarded: $1,287,000 over 5 years
Targeted Species at Risk: Massasauga rattlesnake, Eastern foxsnake, Eastern hog-nosed snake, Blanding’s turtle, and Eastern musk turtle
Project Status: Ongoing (Five-year duration, 2017-2022)

Project Summary

The open rock barrens landscape along Eastern Georgian Bay in central Ontario is considered a “hotspot” for Species at Risk (SAR) reptiles due to the presence of critical wetlands and moss dominated habitat. The majority of reptile species in this region are living along the northern limit of their species’ range, where there is a lower tolerance for any degree of environmental change or disturbance. With funding from GMI through the Eastern Georgian Bay Initiative, researchers from the McMaster Ecohydrology Lab are examining the ecological and hydrological conditions that combine to create suitable reptile SAR habitat in this region, in order to better evaluate and inform conservation strategies. Reptile SAR included in this scope of work include turtles and snakes.

The Henvey Inlet Wind Energy Centre (HIWEC) constructed from 2017 – 2019 consists of numerous new roads and 87 wind turbine generators on land adjacent to critical reptile SAR habitat with the potential to create environmental change or disturbance(s). In accordance with the HIWEC’s requirement to assess the project’s impacts on humans, land, wildlife, flora and fauna, this research targets information gaps and needs pertaining to reptile SAR habitat characteristics and impacts to develop detailed habitat modelling to optimize habitat mitigation measure success within the HIWEC study area. 

2020 marked the end of year three of a five-year funding agreement from GMI’s Eastern Georgian Bay Initiative. By the end of the project, researchers plan to have:

  1. Determined the dominant ecohydrological processes and characteristics in undisturbed reptile SAR habitat,
  2. Assessed the cumulative impacts of the HIWEC on reptile SAR habitat hydrology, vegetation, water chemistry and thermal conditions,
  3. Assessed the success of a new reptile SAR habitat creation design for a turtle nesting habitat, and
  4. Assessed the success of a new reptile SAR habitat creation.

Following the 2020 project activities, researchers released preliminary results for each of the four research objectives; final results – as well as implications for eastern Georgian Bay reptile SAR – are anticipated following project completion in 2022. 

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