Matt Ellerbeck has always loved snakes. Since early childhood, he has spent every summer in swamps, fields, and forests hoping to share some of his time with these interesting creatures. Due to his growing concern over declining snake populations, Matt decided to start a snake conservation project in late 2005.
He has since given hundreds of presentations and workshops on snakes to help educate people about these reptiles and the need for their conservation. He has also used these educational events to promote co-existence with snakes.
Highlights include presentations for the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, Thousand Islands National Park, The GreenUP Environmental Festivals, King’s Town Private School, St. Lawrence College, and Queen’s University (for Environmental Education students).
To further bring his message to the public, Matt has often appeared in media across Canada and the United States. He has frequently been featured on T.V, Radio Shows, and in newspapers.
He made his European media debut in summer 2010 when he appeared on Wild Time Radio, which is an animal rights/world conservation magazine show which airs across Dublin City.
Matt has also written numerous articles on snakes. His articles have appeared in conservation and animal-related publications, newspapers, magazines, and various other mediums. These include articles for the Amphibian Voice (the official newsletter of the Adopt-A-Pond program of the Toronto Zoo), the official publication of the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, Responsible Exotic Animal Ownership (REXANO), The Kingston Field Naturalist’s Blue Bill publication, Voices For Animals Humane Society and many more.
In 2005, after Matt gave a myriad of snake conservation events, the Little Cat Creek Conservation Area presented him with a special honorarium-award to recognize his dedication to snake conservation. In 2006 even more snake conservation presentations were given to further raise awareness for these animals and their conservation.
In 2007 he was aptly described as ” so full of enthusiasm, he looks like he will burst at any moment” by the South Frontenac Natural Environmental Committee, in reference to his passionate presentations.
In 2008, alongside his media appearances and snake presentations, Matt produced an educational fact sheet on snakes entitled, The Truth About Snake Bites. The objective of the resource was to help alleviate people’s fears and hatred of snakes, which should help decrease the number of snakes directly killed by people. Throughout 2008 over 1,100 copies of The Truth About Snake Bites were distributed throughout the Thousand Islands Region. The resource also ran as an article in several newspapers and publications.
The same year he made two donations to the Black Rat Snake Project at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park, which is an ongoing fundraising effort to monitor the park’s unique Black Rat Snake population and to educate the public about this important threatened species. 2008 also saw information about Matt and his snake work be featured in the book Aware: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases (Inc Icon Group International).
In 2009, Matt was one of the featured speakers for the Queen’s University School of Environmental Studies Seminar Series. Matt’s presentation featured information largely about the exploitation and cruelty snakes receive from rattlesnake roundups. This would mark his second talk at Queen’s University.
In 2010, Matt started giving weekly displays on snake conservation (appearing several days a week) at the Kingston Sustainability Centre. These displayed reached hundreds of people weekly. Snake conservation events at many other venues continued as well. During this time Matt was nominated for a Green Globe Award in recognition of his efforts to protect and conserve snakes. The awards were presented by the Commerce and Engineering Environmental Conference. The same year he was named a visionary by Within Kingston Magazine. As part of the designation, the magazine’s May 2010 issue featured an article about Matt’s work as a snake advocate and conservationist.
In 2011 through to the start of 2012, an even bigger emphasis was made in terms of Outreach Education, and Matt presented legions of snake conservation presentations and workshops.
In 2012 (and through the next several years), Matt's snake efforts were focused on collecting observational records and data on these reptiles in their natural habitats. Over the years, he literally observed (and spent time with) thousands of snakes in the wild. This includes several encounters with Species at Risk, such as the Masassauga Rattlesnake, the Blue Racer, and the Queen Snake. Matt also observed the rarely seen Eastern Worm Snake in the southern United States. He also helped provide new records for the Northern Ring-necked Snake and Eastern Milk Snake. Despite the focus largely being on fieldwork, Matt still took the time to educate the public on snake conservation at various events during this period, including at the Wintergreen Nature Studios and the Mazinaw Lakeside Resort.
In 2018, Matt decided to shift more focus back on outreach education. Some highlights from that year include snake conservation presentations for the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area, Quinte Conservation Area, and the Brockville SPCA Critter Camp. In 2019, Matt continued to focus his attention on education to promote snake conservation and co-existence. Some highlights for 2019 include presentations for the St. Lawrence River Institute for Environmental Sciences, the Frontenac Arc Biosphere Camp, the Nature's Explorer's Camp, and many more! The same year he was also issued a Scientific Research Permit from the Cataraqui Conservation Authority to conduct snake censuses on CRCA lands.
Matt has loved snakes all of his life, and his fascination for these animals has never waned or disappeared. He is committed to continuing his work to advocate for the conservation and betterment of snakes!
Alongside his snake efforts, Matt has also been involved with conservation projects to help salamanders, turtles, and frogs. However, in 2019 he decided to no longer pursue any other side projects or endeavors, and focus solely on snakes.