Scott Sutton training Parks Canada employee Sara Solaimani on the safe capture and release of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake

Scott Sutton has a special connection with the threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake. As Visitor Safety and Fire Operations Coordinator at Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Scott spends a lot of time educating people about Ontario’s only rattlesnake. Here are some quick facts about Scott and the rattler he is working to protect.

Person/Place/Species
Scott Sutton Eastern massasauga rattlesnake
Family/genus/species Hominidae Homo H. sapiens Viperidae Sistrurus catenatus
Home Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ontario Eastern Georgian Bay, Bruce Peninsula, Ojibway Prairie Complex, and Wainfleet Bog (all in Ontario)
Preferred habitat The transition zones between forest and water. “This region had amazing diversity and there is always something new to discover.” Exposed rock outcrops of the Canadian Shield and wetlands near the shores of Eastern Georgian Bay.
Favourite food Almost everything, especially if it’s sweet. Small warm-blooded mammals.
Main personality traits Reliable, resourceful and relaxed (for the most part) Shy, docile and non-aggressive.
Importance to the ecosystem By educating park visitors and partners, Scott helps protect native species and natural processes. As a predator, the massasauga helps keep populations of small rodents in check. As prey, it is food for hawks, owls and some mammals.
Interesting fact that few people know about me While doing research, Scott once crawled into a black bear den with a hibernating female and cubs. The eastern massasauga rattlesnake can “see in the dark.” It has two heat-sensing pits on its face which allow it to detect the body temperature of warm-blooded animals. Even in complete darkness, the rattler can find prey up to 60 cm away.
What I love Being outdoors, exploring and discovering Basking in the warm sun under a fragrant juniper
What I hate Being stuck indoors Being distrusted and misunderstood by people
Conservation status Data-deficient—“but I like to think of myself as one of a kind.” Listed as threatened under the Species At Risk Act
Interconnections “Part of my job is to educate people about the massasauga. I get to talk about an incredible species that most people will never see in its natural environment.” As one of the park’s ambassadors for Species at Risk, the massasauga helps educate the public about the importance of protecting wild spaces. The rattler also helps highlight how people can safely live and interact with wildlife.

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