Written by Sean Liipere Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada


Written by Sean Liipere Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada
Written by Sean Liipere
Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada
Lesson Description
Student Fact Sheet: Did You Know?
Student Fact Sheet: Wildlife at Risk
Student Worksheet: Shrinking Habitat
Lesson Description
Student Fact Sheet: Humans in Nature
Curriculum Expectations
The development of this resource was made possible through the expertise, knowledge
and dedication of many people to whom I wish to extend my gratitude.
The overall coordination of this project depended on Parks Canada’s Ontario Outreach
Education Team, specifically Susan Staple and Andrew Leaden. Susan, with her
endless enthusiasm, guidance, and professionalism, has been fundamental in the
development of this resource since its inception. Andrew’s technical expertise and the
long hours he spent making this resource compatible for the web are also greatly
Thanks to the diligence and dedication of Celine Morin, the Translation Services
Administrator with Parks Canada, as well as the team at the Translation Bureau of
PWGSC in Quebec City, this resource is also available in French.
Several Ontario teachers provided a great deal of assistance throughout the
development and evaluation of this resource. Lynne Atchison and Jeff Liipere, from
Bruce Peninsula District School in Lion’s Head, provided great ideas for activities and
lesson plans during the initial stages of the project. Skye Lantinga at Lakehead
University in Thunder Bay, and Nancy Gelinas from Barondale Public School in
Mississauga volunteered to review the final draft of the resource and contributed
valuable feedback. A special thanks to Jim Collins from Hepworth Central School, who
despite his fear of snakes, bravely pre-tested and evaluated these resources in his
grade four classroom.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of all these people, this resource will cultivate an
awareness and appreciation of the threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake in
schools throughout Canada.
By exploring the affects of humans on the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, students
will understand their role in nature. This package includes a teacher background and
suggested lesson plans that allow the supplementary activities to be used as a
comprehensive unit or independently. Students will be provided with fact sheets, a
mapping exercise, and a fun poster activity that allows them to teach others about the
eastern massasauga rattlenake!
2 - 4 periods
Extinction, Species at Risk, Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, Protected Areas
For a listing of specific curriculum expectations, please see Appendix A.
Text Resources
Bruchac, Joseph. Keepers of the Animals: Native Stories and Wildlife Activities for
Children. Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing, 1991.
Conant, Roger. Peterson Field Guide: Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Houghton
Mifflin Company, 1998.
Web Resources
Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada
Georgian Bay Islands National Park of Canada
Parks Canada - Species at Risk
Environment Canada – Species at Risk
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Recovery Team
Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)
Greater Georgian Bay Reptile Awareness Program
Ojibway Nature Centre
Toronto Zoo
Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network
NOTE: The suggested activities can be adapted to a Species at Risk in your local area.
Extinction is a natural process that normally takes place over millions of years.
However, throughout history there have been a few periods in which changes have
taken place much more quickly than species can evolve. These dramatic changes lead
to mass extinctions of more than half of the species found on the Earth during that time.
After such devastation, it takes many millions of years for the slow process of evolution
to develop new forms of life and the old ones are gone forever (Bruchac, 1991).
Today another mass extinction is believed to be underway, only this one is caused by
humans and it is happening at a much faster rate than any in the past. It is estimated
that during the time of the dinosaurs, one species throughout the world became extinct
every 1000 years. One hundred years ago, the rate of extinction had increased to
approximately one extinct species per year. Today, the rate of extinction has
accelerated to approximately 912 different species becoming extinct every single year
(Source: www.gbayreptiles.com).
Even in Canada, several plants and animals are at risk of extinction. In 1990, the
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) was
established to assess and designate which species are in some danger of disappearing
from Canada. By classifying the level of risk for wildlife, it is possible to determine
which plants and animals require immediate help.
The following illustrates the COSEWIC classification for Canada’s species at risk
(Source: www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca):
Species of Special Concern: a wildlife species that may become threatened
or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and
identified threats.
Threatened Species: a wildlife species that is likely to become endangered if
nothing is done to reverse the factors leading to its extirpation or extinction.
Endangered Species: a wildlife species that is facing imminent extirpation or
Extirpated Species: a wildlife species that no longer exists in the wild in
Canada, but exists elsewhere.
Extinct Species: a wildlife species that no longer exists throughout the world
As of 2004, COSEWIC had designated 444 of Canada’s species at risk of extinction. Of
these species, 12 are extinct, 21 extirpated, 169 endangered, 114 threatened, and 140
are species of special concern (Source: www.cosewic.gc.ca). The eastern massasauga
rattlesnake was added to this list in April 1991 as a nationally threatened species
because its range had been reduced so dramatically. Originally the eastern
massasauga rattlesnake used to be found throughout most of southern Ontario, but
has since been reduced to four small populations – the Bruce Peninsula, eastern
Georgian Bay, the Wainfleet Bog near Port Colborne, and the Ojibway-Prairie Complex
in Windsor.
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake has struggled to survive alongside humans and,
as a result, is at risk of disappearing forever. Although there are other human pressures
that affect this species, there are four main threats to the eastern massasauga
rattlesnake: (1) destruction or degradation of habitat, (2) road mortality, (3) human
persecution, and (4) illegal trade (Source: www.massasauga.ca).
Despite the negative effects that humans have had on the eastern massasauga
rattlesnake, there have been many efforts to recover this species and ensure its
survival. In 1991, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Recovery Team was
established to determine recovery strategies for this snake through both research and
education. This recovery team has representatives from a wide range of organizations
including Parks Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Toronto Zoo, and
several others that are dedicated to helping this snake (Source: www.massasauga.ca).
The following illustrates some of the strategies for ensuring the snake’s survival.
Protected Areas
Since the main threat to the eastern massasauga rattlesnake is habitat loss, the
protection of their habitat is critical. Fortunately, several areas in which the eastern
massasauga rattlesnake lives is protected to ensure their habitat remains intact. The
following demonstrates these protected areas. Aside from the designated protected
areas, thousands of landowners in Ontario help protect important areas for this snake
on their own property.
In order to help the eastern massasauga rattlesnake and protect areas in which it lives,
it is crucial that we first understand this species. Since the early 1980’s, there have
been several research projects established in Ontario to understand the life of the
eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Population monitoring, habitat studies, and venom
analyses are just a few features of this snake that have been investigated.
Several of the protected areas listed above have established education programs to
teach people about the importance of preserving this species. From landowner
workshops, hikes, theatre programs, school presentations and many others, people are
getting the word about the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.
This student worksheet demonstrates that some plants and animals are struggling to
survive alongside humans and, furthermore, many of them are at risk of extinction.
Students will explore extinction and the different classifications of species at risk in
Canada. To illustrate the impact of humans on a species, students will colour areas on
a map of southern Ontario, to see the decline of the threatened eastern massasauga
Wildlife at Risk Student Fact Sheet
Shrinking Habitat Student Worksheet
1. Begin the lesson by asking students what extinction means. Have students name
some living things that have become extinct. Discuss whether they will ever see an
extinct species again and ask how this makes them feel.
Steps for New Learning
1. Explain that throughout history several living things have become extinct, but
currently the rate of extinction is higher than it has ever been. Ask students why
they think it is higher now than before. Ask students what we are doing differently.
Explain that there are many plants and animals in Canada that are struggling to
2. Distribute the Wildlife at Risk Student Fact Sheet and have students underline or
highlight key points. Explain the need to classify the level of risk that plants and
animals face in Canada. Discuss the COSEWIC classifications of species at risk
and have students name other species at risk in Canada. Ask if there are any
species at risk that live in their area. Refer to the COSEWIC website
(www.cosewic.gc.ca) for guidance.
1. Distribute the Shrinking Habitat Student Worksheet to demonstrate how the
number of eastern massasauga rattlesnakes in Ontario has declined.
Canada’s national parks are dedicated to
assisting species at risk such as the eastern
massasauga rattlesnake through research
and habitat protection. Let’s see what is
going on in our national parks.
1. Protecting Habitat
Bruce Peninsula National Park currently
protects 154 km2 of rattlesnake habitat.
Fathom Five National Marine Park
protects 113 km2 of rattlesnake habitat.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park
protects 13 km2 of rattlesnake habitat.
2. Research
To find out how many rattlesnakes are in
the national parks biologists search for as
many as possible each year.
Over 470 rattlesnakes have been found
in Bruce Peninsula National Park and
Fathom Five National Marine Park.
Some rattlesnakes have tiny radios
attached to them that allow biologists to
track where they go to understand what
their homes look like.
3. Did You Know?
These national parks work with other
groups such as the Toronto Zoo,
Georgian Bay Reptile Awareness
Program, Ministry of Natural Resources,
local Conservation Authorities and many
4. Education
When visiting these national parks, you
can learn about rattlesnakes by attending
hikes, theatre programs or just by asking
the friendly park staff.
People living near these national parks
can attend workshops and presentations
to learn about rattlesnakes.
Sometimes national park staff will knock
on the door and tell people about how
they can live with rattlesnakes near their
When people hear the word ‘extinction’ they usually think of dinosaurs or dodo birds.
But extinction is not a thing of the past. In fact, it is much more of a threat now than it
has ever been. Only 30 years ago, there was one plant or animal disappearing every
year. Now, there are approximately 912 different species that are at risk of becoming
extinct every single year – this means from the time you woke up this morning until you
go to bed tonight, two to three species will be gone forever.
In Canada many plants and animals, such as the leatherback seaturtle, the peregrine
falcon, and the lakeside daisy, are struggling to survive alongside humans. Currently,
there are 444 different plants and animals at risk of extinction in Canada.
Some plants and animals are more at risk of extinction than others. In order to
understand which living things need our help most, all of the plants and animals in
Canada have been placed into categories, depending on the level of risk they are
currently facing.
Species of Special Concern
A species that does not face an immediate threat but could easily
become at risk of extinction.
Threatened Species
A species that is likely to become endangered if something is not done.
Endangered Species
A species that is so rare that it is in immediate danger of becoming
Extirpated Species
A plant or animal that has disappeared from Canada but is still found in
other parts of the world.
Extinct Species
A species that no longer exists anywhere in the world.
One creature that has struggled to survive alongside humans is the eastern
massasauga rattlesnake. This snake has earned the unfortunate name ‘threatened
species’ because there are not many left in Canada. Although they were once found
throughout most of southern Ontario, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake is now only
found in four areas throughout the province.
1. Discover where the eastern massasauga rattlesnake used to be found more than
100 years ago and where it is today! Using the chart below, colour the squares on
the map to see the snake’s shrinking habitat. Use different colours to show where it
was found in the past and where it is found now.
Where was it found before 1900?
A5-A9, B10, C11-C13, D13, E13, F13F14, G13-G14, H7-H9, H11, H14, I6-I13,
J6-J13, K6-K11, L6-L9, M6-M7, N5-N7,
O4-O6, O10-O14, P3-P12, P14, Q3-Q11,
R3-R5, R9-R10, S2-S5, T1-T3
Where is it found today?
B6-B9, C9-C10, D9-D12, E10-E12, F6-F7,
F11-F12, G11-G12, H12-H13, G7-G8,
P13, S1
2. Using an atlas, name the towns/cities that are represented by numbers on the map
to see how close you live to rattlesnake country!
3. Using an atlas, name the bodies of water that are represented by letters on the
Source: http://www.brocku.ca/maplibrary/
This activity allows students to create educational posters that teach people how
humans can help the eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Students will refer to a fact
sheet to obtain accurate information for their posters.
Humans In Nature Student Fact Sheet
1. Begin the lesson by having students brainstorm ways that humans can affect living
things. Arrange their suggestions in a chart to illustrate how humans can harm and
help wildlife.
Steps for New Learning
1. Arrange students into pairs or small groups. Distribute the Humans In Nature
Student Fact Sheet and have students underline or highlight key points about the
ways that humans can harm and help the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.
1. Have the students draw a poster to educate people about the eastern massasauga
rattlesnake and how humans can harm it and help it. The poster should include: (i)
a title indicating the eastern massasauga rattlesnake’s need for help, (ii) a drawing
of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, and (iii) information that demonstrates the
positive and negative effects of humans. These posters can be displayed
throughout the school or local community. This activity can also be adapted to
study other Species at Risk in your local area.
We’d love to see your students’ work so please submit them to Bruce Peninsula
National Park of Canada.
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Education Program
c/o Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada
Box 189 Tobermory, ON
N0H 2R0
Although humans are a part of the natural world, we can sometimes do things that
harm the wildlife around us. While some living things, such as seagulls or raccoons can
live very well alongside people, many other plants and animals are struggling to
survive. Let’s take a look at the four main reasons that the eastern massasauga
rattlesnake is struggling to survive.
Losing a Home
The habitat of the eastern massasauga
rattlesnake is changing very quickly. This snake is
losing its home as more houses, cottages, and
roads are built. Sometimes toxic chemicals such
as pollution and pesticides can make its habitat
unsuitable to live in. Without a home, the eastern
massasauga rattlesnake has little hope for
Photo: www.massasauga.ca
Intentional Killing
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake has always
had a bad reputation and many people have tried
to kill it instead of learning to live with it.
Crossing Roads
Roads are very dangerous places for rattlesnakes
and all other wildlife. Whether they are crossing
the road or warming up on the hot asphalt, many
snakes do not survive.
Photo: www.massasauga.ca
Illegal Pets
Some people collect rattlesnakes as pets. This
means that the snakes won’t have a chance to
mate and give birth to young snakes in the wild.
Without young snakes, the population will
Photo: Ethan Meleg, Parks Canada
Although humans can sometimes do things that harm wildlife, there are many things
that humans are doing to help. Whether it’s recycling, picking up litter, or planting trees,
each one of us can make a difference in keeping our wildlife around. But some
creatures, like the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, are getting a lot of attention these
days. Let’s take a close look at some of the things being done to help keep this snake
Habitat Helpers
Many people are working together to help save the homes of the eastern
massasauga rattlesnake. In Canada, there are three national parks, nine
provincial parks, three nature reserves, and two conservation areas that protect
the habitat of this snake. Several people living in rattlesnake country also help
this snake by providing a home on their own property.
Snake Science
In order to help the eastern massasauga rattlesnake we must first understand
it. By learning about its habitat and behaviour through research, biologists can
better understand how to help this snake. For example, at Bruce Peninsula
National Park of Canada, biologists have tracked over 34 rattlesnakes to find
out what they look for in a home.
Teaching Others
This snake needs all of our help, so by teaching people about the eastern
massasauga rattlesnake we can work together to help make a difference.
There are lots of fun programs that allow people to learn about the life of the
eastern massasauga rattlesnake. At Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada,
there are hikes, theatre programs, school presentations and many more fun
ways to learn about this snake. And just because you are a student doesn’t
mean you can’t be a teacher as well. Go out and tell everyone about this
Artist: Sean Liipere,
Bruce Peninsula National Park
List of Curriculum Expectations
Alberta Grade 3: Science (1996) – Topic E: Animal Life Cycles
Describe the appearances and life cycles of some common animals, and identify their adaptations
to different environments
• Demonstrate awareness that animals require different habitats in order to meet
their basic needs of food, water, shelter and space
• Recognize that habitat preservation can help maintain animal populations, and
identify ways that student actions can assist habitat preservation
Alberta Grade 3: Mathematics (1997) – Statistics and Probability (Data Analysis)
Collect first hand and second-hand data, display the results in more than one way, and
interpret the data to make predictions. Specifically,
• Collect data, using measuring devices and printed/technology resources
• Display data
Alberta Grade 7: Science (2003) – Unit A : Interactions and Ecosystems
Investigate and describe relationships between humans and their environments,
and identify related issues and scientific questions
Describe the relationships among knowledge, decisions and actions in maintaining
life-supporting environments
Identify intended and unintended consequences of human activities within local and
global environments
Manitoba Grade 4: Science – Habitats and Communities
Recognize that each plant and animal depends on a specific habitat to meet its
needs (4-1-02)
Identify the components of an animal habitat, include food, water living spaces,
cover/shelter (4-1-03)
Identify physical and behavioural adaptations of animals and plants, and infer how
these adaptations help them to survive in a specific habitat (4-1-04)
Investigate and describe a variety of local and regional habitats and their
associated populations of plants and animals (4-1-07)
Investigate natural and human-caused changes to habitats, and identify resulting
effects on plants and animal populations; include endangerment, extinction (4-1-14)
Ontario Grade 4: Science and Technology (2004) – Life Systems
Recognize that animals and plants live in specific habitats because they are
dependent on those habitats and have adapted to them
Formulate questions about and identify the needs of animals and plants in a
particular habitat, and explore possible answers to these questions and ways of
meeting these needs
Compile data gathered through investigation in order to record and present results,
using tally charts, tables, and labelled graphs produced by hand or with a computer
Describe structural adaptations of plants and animals that demonstrate a response
of the living things to their environment
Use appropriate vocabulary, including correct science and technology terminology,
in describing their investigations, explorations, and observations
Ontario Grade 4: Mathematics (2004) – Data Management and Probability
Collect and identify data and identify their use
Predict the results of data collected
Recognize the purpose of different parts of a graph: title, labels, axes
Read and interpret data presented on tables, charts, and graphs and discuss the
important features
Ontario Grade 4: Arts – (2004) Visual Arts
Produce two- and three-dimensional works of art (i.e., works involving media and
techniques used in drawing, painting, sculpting, printmaking) that communicate
thoughts, feelings, and ideas for specific purposes and to specific audiences (e.g.,
create a poster for display in the school library to commemorate a personal literary
hero, using an additive form of printmaking)
Identify strengths and areas for improvement in their own work and that of others
Ontario Grade 4: Social Studies (2004) – Canada and World Connections
Locate on a map community boundaries and adjacent communities (e.g., towns,
counties) within a region
Locate on a map of Ontario and label the Great Lakes and other major bodies of
water and waterways (e.g., Hudson Bay, James Bay, the Ottawa River);
Use number and letter grids to locate places on base maps and road maps, and in
Saskatchewan Grade 5: Science – Communities and Ecosystems
Understand the concept of the ecosystem
• Describe the habitat of a number of populations
• Identify and describe the niches of the populations comprising a community
• Discuss the factors which limit the population of a species
Investigate and describe the ecosystem of the local community
• Identify and describe the animal, plant, fungi, algae, and protest populations in
the local community
• Describe the niche of members of those populations
• Trace the changes in the local ecosystem