Friday, 9 August 2013

Safe Hiking In Shared Spaces with the Eastern Massasauga Rattesnake

I am attending the North American Council on Adoptable Children in Toronto Ontario Canada.  Twice during breaks I have been part of a discussion around hiking the Bruce Peninsula and the dangers of the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.  

In one discussion a Grandfather described how he was hiking with his daughter and granddaughter.  5 kilometers into the hike and 2 kilometers from the car they came across a large Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. The snake was less than a 10 centimeters off the path coiled and rattling.  The path was described as wide enough for a single person pass and with an immediate drop down the escarpment on the opposite side from the snake.  Their problem was which way to go: hike 5 kilometers back to the car or find a way around the snake. The second conversation was a couple discussing the reason they would never take their children camping or hiking on the Bruce Peninsula and yes it was because of the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.

Paul and I vacationed with our children and up until this year our grandchildren on the Bruce Peninsula where we have a seasonal campsite at Miller’s Family Campground.  We never worried about Rattlesnakes.  In the 15 years we camped on the Bruce we saw maybe 6 Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake and never when we were at any risk a a bite.  Were we naïve and lucky or can the issue of the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake be safely managed for families with children.

To answer this question I turned to the Internet and I found out that there has been an increase of snake bits this year. 'Unusual number of snake bites in Ontario this summer' Toronto Star.  In the article I learned that there has six snake bites so far this year, an unusually high number.  The weather this year combined with a loss of natural habitat has meant that there are more snakes in the same area as the hikers.  Link to the article :  

 Safe Hiking

The following websites provide important information on keeping yourself and your family safe with hiking the Bruce Peninsula:


 I took these two pictures on one of our hikes years ago

Paul and I will keep on hiking by:

  1. Always hike in hiking boots and loose long pants.
  2. Always being alert to where you put your feet and hands
  3. When we hear the distinctive rattle we will not run.  We will stop and determine where the snake is and move away in the opposite direction.
  4. We will never touch or harass the snake.
  5. We will teach our children and grandchildren what the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake looks like and how to act if they encounter one.
  6.  We will always keep our dogs on a leash when hiking with them.


Following the safety precautions identified on the two websites and teaching children to always respect nature hiking is both a safe and fun family activity.

The Bruce Peninsula remains a wonderful place to spend time with Grandchildren.  



Grandma Snyder

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