TNB Night Owl – Manitoba Snakes

Female garter snake in mating ball; Photo by Chris Friesen, courtesy of Oregon State University

Snakes consistently top the lists of fears for American adults. What if there was a way to quell those fears?

There is. And it’s in Manitoba.

Every year, an area just north of Narcisse, Manitoba provides a natural display that is visually striking and, rare for natural tourism displays, highly interactive. It’s their snake mating season.

The location is unusually bad for farmland because of the very thin soil layer which lays on top of natural limestone. The limestone also cracks easily and sometimes forms caves or sinkholes. It’s real estate which is difficult to make useful… unless you’re a snake.

The ground is virtually ideal for a wriggly reptile. It provides an insulated area during the frigid winters, plenty of openings for a snake to slither into (or out of) and a handful of large holes that can be as large as the room of a house.

And what types of snakes live in this area of Manitoba? Garter snakes.

Contrary to popular belief, garter snakes are venomous, and they do have teeth. The reason they’re considered safe around humans is twofold: the venom is extremely mild (it may cause minor swelling in people) and its teeth are situated toward the rear of its mouth. Unless you’re sticking your finger down the snake’s throat, you can’t get bitten… and a case could be made that anyone choking out a garter snake might deserve a swollen finger.

So, Manitoba has garter snake mating season, and all are invited to come watch. It would seem to be a very minor draw, until one learns how many snakes are involved.

Every year, for about two weeks, tens of thousands of snakes crawl up from the ground and form into snake dens, giant writhing carpets of scaly ardor. Anyone wanting to face their fears can go and handle as many of the red-sided garter snakes as they wish.

The event is entirely temperature and weather dependent, but typically happens around Mother’s Day. If you were looking for this year’s present, we at the Owl are happy to oblige.

Question of the night: What’s your favorite Canadian thing?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.