The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

May 21, 2007

Manitoba's Slithering Snakes


I can just imagine that being the reaction from Gautami, the ultra-intelligent teacher/poetess/blogger from Delhi, India, to this post on the Narcisse snake pits in Manitoba's Interlake area.

I can't remember how it all came about, but I promised Gautami I'd go up to Narcisse (about 90 minutes from Winnipeg) to take my own pictures and write a post about the pits.

And, well, I still haven't gone, due to work commitments and other matters. And I suspect the snakes have all dispersed by now to the nearby grasslands to consume mice and to mate.

Doh! You might want to include that I put the trip off when I had the opportunity to go...and then I forgot...and then, she reminded me...and then, oh, never mind.

This will simply have to do for the moment, seeing as I am again chained to my work for the next week. Sorry, Gautami. But I still want to see a post from you on cobras and their nemesis, the mongoose.


The snakes that inhabit Manitoba are called garter snakes. They're a hardy lot and, like every other living creature in the Great White North, they have to find winter shelter to survive.

So what they do every fall is they gather by the hundreds of thousands in what is called the Narcisse snake dens, where they hibernate beneath the frost over the winter.

In the spring, usually in the last part of April and early May, they emerge and go into a mating frenzy. I've been on hand at least twice or three times to see it.

While they're involved in this most copulous of activities, they're oblivious to threats around them.

That means people can visit the pit to watch them, and they do in big numbers -- 35,000 each year.

And this is more or less what they see:

It IS truly an amazing thing and is well worth seeing. It's especially neat for kids, who have a chance to see that all the bugaboos about snakes aren't true.
They're NOT slimy. They're NOT the devil. They're NOT all poisonous. They're an important part of the foodchain. They're very efficient animals that have been this way for millions of years.
When I was a kid, actually seeing a garter snake and then trying to catch it -- and succeeding -- was one of the most spectacular experiences of all, these reptiles are so incredible.

Anyway, Gautami, I DO apologize for not getting out there myself this was unavoidable. I had plans this weekend to go with my son to see if the snakes were still there.

But that never worked out either...the weather was cool and wet, and my son kept coming up with wanting to talk to his latest girlfriend on MSN.

Besides, I highly suspect they've all left the dens, as I said. I realize this isn't the same, but for this year, it will have to suffice. For now, I'm just going to slither back under my rock...


  1. Eeew, ask me to go near a cockroach (to kill it, of course) and I won't even blink. Snakes freak me out. I like seeing them on tv or behind a glass in the zoo.

  2. That is so cool, i love snakes, being australian it is just something you get used to, Tiger snakes, black snakes used to live in around my parents place. That and all the sea snakes i encountered in the south pacific. black and white and very poisoness.

    Very very cool post, and enlightening:)

    Thanks WW

  3. That sounds incredible... I'm beginning to think that Aidan and I should go to Canada rather than Russia for our next big trip. That remains to be seen! Snakes are cool - growing up in the country you get used to them, although naturally caution is embedded into my reaction. It's only spiders that still freak me out, and even there I'm getting better!

  4. That IS cool! We have garter snakes in Montana, too. They are really neat creatures and I had several as pets when I was a child.

    I also had a mud puppy (not really sure what it was, but it was very cool and not at all slimy either), frogs, horned toads, lizards, salamanders and various other odd creatures. Ah the joys of growing up in a rural area.

  5. Menchie:

    Well, girl, I understand the fear of snakes. All I can tell you about these guys is they're beautiful, not poisonous, they're relatively small, they do bite but they're amazing.


    Hey Ozzie Man, I think sea snakes are the most poisonous of all. These guys are nothing in comparison. They're gorgeous things.


    I've told you (or Aidan) before that you two would have a free ride here. I can't speak for Russia. All I can do is tell you you'd be amazed by Canada.


    Mud puppies! If they're what I'm thinking of, they're goofy looking fish who have the capacity to breath through lungs AND gills.

    Horned toads I think we might have in the Carberry Desert (another post) but the others?

    Let's go collecting...

  6. I would rather be in a snake pit for a week than to have to kill or even see a cockroach! Ack! I find snakes to be so beautiful...Anyway, WW, we forgive you!

  7. This is cheating. You posted pictures of snakes without going to Narcisse snake pits?

    I love the pictures of the snakes. Symbol of wealth and fertility in some parts of India. Worshipped too. I have posted something like that. Not on rooted but Gita blog.

    They are supposed to there wherever some treasure is to be found.

    I will write a poem on snake and mongoose soon. I am on a writing spree.

    Anyway, I like this post. Thanks! Sorry for getting here late..

  8. Narcisse is a very cool spot. I have been there atleast a half dozen times and I am always amazed that the School aged Kids scream at first and within an hour all but a few will be snakehandlers Hallelujah!

    I always try to STOP kids from actually picking them up...

    but for the most part Garter Snakes rarely bite unless really pissed off (non-poisonous but it does pinch) and usually they choose to empty their little reptilian bladders in your hands because they are as scared of noisy smelly school kids as they should be.

    I have seen film crews from Japan and Europe at Narcisse. Largest and most accessible mating balls in the world...
    sssssounds sssexy eh!

  9. Always good to see a non-professional come out in support of creatures deemed ( often wrongly) scary.
    Last snake I saw up-close was a very small (18"?) Childrens python.We just watched it for a while;it was just "resting" on a rafter.

  10. Me again! Just to's called "Children"s" after Prof. Children, who discovered/named it, not because it is small and suitable for kiddies. (Although it is often kept as a pet as it is small.)

  11. Carm:

    What is this thing women seem to have with cockroaches? To each her own, I guess...

    Thanks for your forgiveness...


    Yes, it's cheating. But you guilted me into it! (Not really, I wanted to go out there, but it just didn't happen).

    It IS a cool place. Read HE's additional descriptive, it gives you more of a flavour of the place.

    I'll hope to catch your piece on the cobra/mongoose...


    Yeah, I think it's good to show caution about kids picking them up for the snakes' safety, but the touching makes it so real for the kids.

    I don't think too many are harmed. Snakes, I mean. And yep, it does sting when they bite. The snakes, I mean.

    You know what I mean.


    Thanks for clarifying the name of that python. That would be so cool to live in a place where snakes are so abundant...

  12. wow- you've actually seen that!
    damien and i have seen it on tv and would love to see it in real life one day!

  13. Angel:

    You've seen the Narcisse snake dens on TV in SA? Cool!

  14. I had never heard of Narcisse snake dense. There's so much more to Manitoba than meets the eye. I really should get out there and visit sometime. I'm always ashamed when I know so little about some of the wondrous places in my own country.

    Thank you for today's lesson on Manitoba.

  15. Anna:

    Prof. WW will next direct you to Manitoba's desert, the Carberry Desert, followed by a tour of the Bloodvein River and, of course, the polar bears on Hudson Bay around Churchill.

    Then we'll visit each of our 100,000 lakes (We're known as the Land of 100,000 Lakes).

    There's Grand Beach, of course, on Lake Winnipeg, once voted one of the top 10 sand beaches in North America, I believe.

    And that whole Lake Winnipeg corridor is one of the most prolific breeding grounds for migratory waterfowl on the planet.

    Those are among some of the more interesting areas to hit in our province, including the Whiteshell Provincial Park near the Ontario border, right in the heart of the Canadian Shield.

    I should also mention our -40C winter temps, mosquitoes and black flies, just to be balanced.

    Quebec, I know, is a gorgeous province. Montreal and Quebec City are beautiful and the Laurentians are incredible.


  16. Wow, I had no idea. Thank you for all of that wonderful information.

    J and I have talked about doing a cross country trip someday and stopping in Winnipeg to visit his cousin. It sounds like we'll have to make Winnipeg the entire trip.

    I hope you won't mind me hitting you up for more detailed information when the times comes.

    By the way, I don't want to experience the -40C nor the black flies. So when is the best time to visit?

  17. Anna:

    As much as I love Manitoba and all, I can't be very objective. I would doubt you'd want to make Winnipeg your only destination.

    Travelling through Northwestern Ontario, especially along the TransCanada all the way along the north shore of Lake Superior, is amazing and is well worth taking time for.

    If you do visit Manitoba, the best time for warm weather is July/August, for sure...


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