TOP VIEWING SITES
• Boat docks and rocky shorelines in the Lake Erie Islands region
• Keuhlne Wildlife Area, Middle Bass Island, Ottawa County
• Middle Bass Island State Park, Ottawa County
• Kelley’s Island State Park, Erie County
The Lake Erie watersnake was delisted from the federal threatened and endangered species list in 2011 and is a state threatened species.This snake has one of the smallest geographic ranges of any vertebrate in the world and is only found on the islands of Lake Erie. Lake Erie watersnakes are active primarily between early May and October, depending on seasonal temperatures and weather. They typically enter hibernation between mid-September and mid-October. When not hibernating, they spend most of their time near the lake’s edge basking on the rocky shoreline or foraging just offshore. The snake’s diet is mainly non-game fish and amphibians found in and around rocks and vegetation near the shore. Studies have shown that 92% of their diet is composed of the round goby, an aquatic nuisance species which appeared in Lake Erie in the mid-1990s. They mate from late May to early June by forming “mating balls” consisting of 1 female and several males. Live birth of 30 or so pencil-sized young occurs in early September. Only about 15% of the young survive their first year. The snake has benefited from the construction of docks and shoreline protection done in a snake-friendly manner demonstrating its ability to coexist with humans, a condition necessary for them to persist on the islands. The estimate of adult population size is based on more than 12,000 captures between 1996 and 2010. The total population estimate, which includes shoreline habitats outside the surveyed area, is 9800 adult watersnakes. This exceeds the 5,555 adult snakes needed for the species to be deemed recovered as specified in the Lake Erie Watersnake Recovery Plan.
Survey details and historical data can be found in the Unique Habitats Overview section of the Wildlife Population Status and Hunting Forecast.