Killbear likely doesn’t have many more snakes than most parks in central and southern Ontario. We just talk about our snakes a lot because we’re lucky enough to have the threatened Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake while most other parks in the province don’t.
Rattlesnakes are something to be cautious of, but there is no need to be frightened of them. Massasauga Rattlesnakes are small and generally quite timid around people. They prefer to hide rather than have a confrontation with a human. If someone comes too close, a rattlesnake will usually shake its rattle as a warning not to come any closer.
The vast majority of people camp at Killbear for years and never see a rattlesnake. However there have been some first time visitors who had a rattlesnake wander onto their campsite within an hour of arriving in the park!
Park staff relocated a total of 10 rattlesnakes from campsites in 2009 and 2010. To keep this in perspective, there were 105,600 campsites nights at Killbear over the past two summers (880 campsites X 60 nights per summer X 2 years) so the chances of having one on your campsite are very slim. While rattlesnakes can be found throughout the park, they are more likely to end up on campsites in Kilcoursie and Blind Bay campgrounds.
After decades of not having any visitors bitten by rattlesnakes, 3 park visitors have been bitten since 2007. Two people accidentally stepped on the snake while walking off trails (it is not advised to wear sandals and walk in areas where you cannot see your feet at Killbear). The third person was bitten on the hand as he attempted to help it cross the road (we don’t advise picking up rattlesnakes). All 3 people recovered fully after spending 1-3 days in the Parry Sound Hospital which is 30 minutes away from Killbear. The local hospital is the site of the provincial antivenim depot and is the designated leader in dealing with rattlesnake bites. With modern medicine, no one has died from a rattlesnake bite in Ontario since 1962.
Come to the visitor centre to see our live Massasauga Rattlesnake and Eastern Foxsnake on display and to talk to one of the park naturalists about camping in rattlesnake country. Download the factsheets the park has produced based on years of extensive research into park snakes.