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...