Brown Snake

Conservation

in action

Brown Snake

Urban life on the edge.

Where does it live?

Although sometimes found in abundance in some specific sites, the distribution range of the Brown Snake is limited to a very small area in south-western Québec. It is indeed difficult to comprehend that this snake can only be observed in the metropolitan region of Montréal, and mostly on islands such as the island of Montréal, Laval and Île-Perrot. This is why it is nicknamed the "city snake" in the United States. Where to find it? Preferably in old fields, meadows, vacant lots, parks, roadsides and woodland edges.

Why should we be interested and why should we protect it?

Harmless like all other snakes in Québec, it generally measures less than 35 cm in length. Despite its small size and adaptability, and requiring only a small territory to survive, you would think that its situation is not so alarming. Yet it is just the opposite! Intensive urban development in the most heavily populated region of Québec represents a serious threat to the survival of the Brown Snake. Isolated in areas of natural habitat in regeneration that are increasingly coveted by contractors for projects, these populations face major obstacles.

Already, many sites where known populations existed were completely destroyed as a result of development work, and many others could disappear in the short term. It is for this reason that the species is declining and is, since 1992, on the list of wildlife species likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable in Québec.

What do we do?

For many years, we’ve participate in the inventory and study of populations of Brown Snakes. Through this work, we are able to identify the precise distribution of species populations, to identify the threats they face, to study the best methods to protect their habitats and to identify conservation priorities.

For many years, we’ve participate in the inventory and study of populations of Brown Snakes. Through this work, we are able to identify the precise distribution of species populations, to identify the threats they face, to study the best methods to protect their habitats and to identify conservation priorities.

Early 2000s: Over a period of about 7 years, the Ecomuseum Zoo participated in the inventory of Brown Snakes thus locating habitats used and characterizing hibernation sites for the species.

Result : Particular attention was paid to their protection in the management of nature parks.

2006 : A system of potential means of long-term survival is established for populations of Brown Snakes. Artificial hibernation sites were installed in two nature parks. The Ecomuseum Zoo team is made responsible for monitoring the populations of Brown Snakes related to these hibernacula during a one year period.

Result : Unfortunately, in one year, very few individuals were observed using these artificial shelters

2011-2012 : The Ecomuseum Zoo participates in a further in-depth study of the species. Due to the extension of a road, the zoo’s team was needed to capture, mark, relocate and follow all the Brown Snakes that would be affected by the imminent destruction of their habitat. In addition to these specific actions, the Ecomuseum Zoo also studied the effectiveness and validity of the relocation programs for populations in compensation for the loss of habitat, assessing whether the Brown Snakes could adapt and survive in a new environment.This is the first study on the impacts of this type of compensatory measure.

Result : Analysis of study results made it impossible to conclude that relocation is a clearly effective method to ensure the survival of the species when habitat is threatened to disappear. Fortunately, this data will be used in the next steps to protect this species that remains in great need!