Species At Risk


(Regina septemvittata)


Queensnake occurrences map


The Queensnake is a non-venomous, slender snake that can reach up to 60 centimetres in length. It lives in streams and rivers with good water quality where it can hunt for crayfish, its main food source. The body is brownish olive above with three dark stripes running down the back. The belly is pale yellow with four dark stripes running along its length. This species can be easily identified as it is the only snake in Ontario with a longitudinally striped belly.

Action we are taking:


In Ontario, the Queensnake is found only in the southwest in Middlesex, Brant, Huron and Essex counties, and on the Bruce Peninsula. There are fewer than 25 sites where it is known to occur in these areas.

The extremely specialized habitat requirements of the Queensnake restrict this species to particular areas, with large gaps of unfavourable habitat in between populations. The snake’s home range is quite small, making Queensnakes less likely to move into new areas or areas where it was historically found.


The Queensnake is an aquatic species that is seldom found more than a few metres from the water. It prefers rivers, streams and lakes with clear water, rocky or gravel bottoms, lots of places to hide, and an abundance of crayfish. Queensnakes will often hibernate in groups with other snakes, amphibians and even crayfish. Suitable hibernation sites (called hibernacula) include abutments of old bridges and crevices in bedrock.


The most significant threat to the Queensnake is habitat loss due to drainage or disturbance of waterways, urban development along shorelines, and pollution. As a result of waterway pollution, crayfish, which require good water quality, have died out and Queensnake numbers have declined. Trampling by walking and standing on shoreline rocks has contributed to the deaths of some Queensnakes. Human persecution and illegal collection for the pet trade are also concerns.


The Queensnake and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act. This species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Queensnake

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Queensnake. The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas collects observations of all Ontario reptiles and amphibians. Submit your observations to either of these databases at nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/species/species_report.cfm and www.ontarionature.org/atlas. Photographs are important to help confirm the identification of species and are always helpful.
  • Appreciate snakes and don’t harm them; they play an important role in our environment. Whether in a field or in your backyard, if you come across a snake, keep in mind that you are much larger than it is and the snake is more afraid of you than you are of it.
  • If you come across a snake, please don’t try to capture it, handle it or kill it. Snakes can be delicate and improper handling can cause serious injury. Also, certain species are protected under legislation, which makes it illegal to harass, harm or kill them. Be respectful and observe from a distance.
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Help to keep our waterways healthy. If you own riverfront property, maintain natural vegetation along the shoreline. The Queensnake and its food (crayfish) are very sensitive to pollution. Ask for environmentally friendly fertilizer and alternatives at your gardening store.
  • Never buy snakes that have been caught in the wild and never buy a native species of any kind that’s being sold as a pet.
  • Private land owners have an important role to play in species at risk recovery. If you find a Queensnake 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?

The Queensnake is not venomous, like all of Ontario’s snakes except for the Massasauga rattlesnake. The Queensnake is very shy and will always flee when threatened. They do not bite unless they are picked up, so there is no need to worry about sharing your backyard with the elegant Queensnake.

Did you know?

Queensnakes are excellent swimmers and can often be seen swimming and hunting underwater for their main food source – freshly-moulted crayfish. When freshly moulted, crayfish are soft, defenceless and easier to swallow. Ironically, during winter hibernation, crayfish turn the table and will eat juvenile and hibernating Queensnakes.

Did you know?

Although this snake is highly aquatic and a great swimmer, it can also climb trees. You may be lucky enough to see one of these elegant snakes resting and basking in the branches of a small tree or shrub on the shoreline.

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.