06/10/2015 07:34 EDT | Updated 06/10/2016 05:59 EDT

Massasauga rattler recovery program gets $300K from Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa and Ontario will spend a combined $300,000 to save Ontario's only rattlesnake, the massasauga rattler.

The snake is considered an endangered species in southern Ontario, where its population is rapidly dwindling. That's the region in which the governments will focus their money and energy.

The snake is listed as threatened in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region.

Wild Life Preservation Canada has secured $100,000 a year for the next three years to start an emergency recovery program to save the eastern massasauga rattlesnake from extinction in the Ojibway Prairie Remnants of Windsor, Ont., and the neighbouring suburb of LaSalle. 

The total population of adult and sub-adult massasauga rattlesnakes in that area are estimated to be around a dozen, said Jonathan Choquette, program coordinator, OPR Reptile Recovery Program. A healthy adult population would be in the hundreds, he said.

"It's really in an emergency state right now," said Jonathan Choquette. "It's at the point where if we don't actively recover this population it's going to blink out. A small population of that size can only sustain itself for so long.

"One bad event, one bad winter, could wipe them all out."

Choquette said most of the snake deaths are caused by road mortality, habitat destruction and people illegally taking them home as pets. 

Wild Life Preservation Canada has launched the Ojibway Prairie Remnants Reptile Recovery Program, which will take emergency action to start reducing the major threats to the massasauga, while also laying the groundwork needed to begin a long-term recovery program. 

Three field technicians have been hired in Windsor to begin enhancing the snake habitat, monitoring where the massasauga rattlers live and their demographics as well as assessing all the threats they may experience. 

Choquette said it may mean putting up fencing to protect the snakes from people and cars, and also buying properties in the city to extend their habitat. 

The funding for the project came from both provincial and federal governments. 

If you see a massasauga rattlesnake

- stay on the paved trails — usually rattle snakes stay in their vegetation

- keep dogs on a leash

- if hiking in vegetation wear long pants, tall hiking boots

-  if you need to you can grab a long stick and shoo it off the path 

- if you see one in your backyard call a professional to remove it