Species At Risk

Pygmy Snaketail

(Ophiogomphus howei)


Pygmy Snaketail
Pygmy Snaketail occurrences map


The Pygmy Snaketail is a small (31 to 37 millimetre long) dragonfly. It is dark brown and black, with vivid yellow markings on the abdomen and bright green ones on the thorax. Its wings have a large, transparent yellow-orange patch.

Pygmy Snaketails are believed to spend at least two years as larvae, and about six to eight weeks as flying adults.


There is just one record of a Pygmy Snaketail from Ontario, based on a larval skin collected in northwestern Ontario (Namakan River) in 2007. Despite ongoing searches, no additional Ontario specimens have been found.

The species occurs in two separate regions – one in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and northwestern Ontario, and a more extensive eastern population ranging along the Appalachian Mountains from Tennessee to New Brunswick.


Pygmy Snaketail larvae are found in large, fast flowing rivers having substrates of sand and gravel. However, searches for larval skins at many apparently suitable waters have been unsuccessful, suggesting that the habitat may be more narrowly defined.

Adult Pygmy Snaketails live in the forest canopy adjacent to the river where they lived as larvae.


Larvae require clear, rapid, and unpolluted large rivers with fine sand or pea gravel bottoms. Dam construction is a potential threat, along with water pollution resulting from excessive nutrient input from sewage, or sedimentation due to agricultural or forestry run-off. Pesticides and herbicides are also a potential threat.


The Pygmy Snaketail and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Pygmy Snaketail

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Pygmy Snaketail . You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find the Pygmy Snaketail on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Did you know?

Adult Pygmy Snaketails are rarely seen because they spend much of their time in the forest canopy.

Did you know?

The Pygmy Snaketail is the smallest of the snaketails and one of the smaller dragonflies in North America.

Did you know?

The female Pygmy Snaketail dips the end of her abdomen into the water to release her eggs, which are carried by the current and eventually sink to the bottom of the river.

Did you know?

During the day, Pygmy Snaketail larvae burrow up to 20 centimetres into the soil. At night, they come to the surface and drift with the current.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.