Dozens of rare snakes released into woods near London in conservation first for region
33 Eastern Hog nosed snakelets were released in a secret location outside London
Conservation officials released dozens of freshly-hatched snakes from a rare native species Monday at a secret location just outside London's city limits in a bid to prop up a species in decline.
Sometimes known as "puff adders" the eastern hog-nosed snake can be found throughout most of eastern North America, from southwestern Ontario to the southern tip of Florida.
What makes the species unique is its ability to inflate itself and make a hissing noise when it feels threatened in a defensive display so effectively that it makes the species resemble a cobra, even though it's actually harmless.
Snake will play dead rather than bite
It's for this reason the reptile finds itself often misunderstood and, at times, persecuted by humans, who mistakenly believe its as deadly as its cobra cousin, when in reality the non-venomous snake will actually play dead rather than bite.
Whether its well deserved or not, the eastern hog-nosed snake is a reptile with a bad rap and as such has been on the decline for years thanks to a combination of persecution, habitat loss and ending up as road kill.
It's why conservation officials with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority are so keen to give the species a hand up.
Snakes 'don't appeal to everybody'
"Snakes in general don't appeal to everybody, but they have their own beauty," said Scott Gillingwater, a biologist with the Upper Thames Conservation Authority.
"They have their own importance in our ecosystem and I think they need to be respected just as much as a panda or a whale."
Gillingwater said conservation officials were lucky enough to stumble upon a clutch of eggs belonging to the rare species. They then took the eggs and moved them indoors, under the warmth of an incubator, until they hatched.
Snakes were chipped before release
On Monday, conservation officials released the snakes back into the area where their eggs were first discovered.
There's no firm numbers on how many of the snakes are left in Ontario, but conservation officials say they're extremely rare thanks to predators and human activity.
"It's a very rare species, especially in this part of the province," Gillingwater said.
The tiny snakes are expected to live anywhere between 10 to 15 years if they survive and were all fitted with a microchip so that scientists can track them if they're ever re-caught.