One of the things I miss about living in Manitoba is being able to go to the Narcisse Snake Dens. We're fans of reptiles in general, but I really love garter snakes. I was thrilled to discover that there's a hibernaculum out our way, and gratefully accepted the offer of a ride - ever more grateful when I saw just how far out of the city this place was! It's actually on private property, but the owner allows people to come and see the snakes. In the end, it became an impromptu field trip with a whole bunch of other hs'ing families. What a blast we had!
It wasn't the warmest of days, so there weren't very many snakes, but the ones that emerged were quite amendable to handling. We found one spot in particular where they were coming out of holes int he ground, with tiny heads taking peeks through the leaves at us. The kids were in heaven! Sadly, we saw far more dead snakes than live ones. Some of them actually looked completely unharmed in any way - no signs of what killed them. It took some time to determine that they actually were dead. Others were clearly killed by ravens for their livers. I don't like ravens. Wasteful creatures that kill excessively and without need. With the garter snakes, they will pick out the liver to eat and nothing else, with the snake often living for some time after the attack. At least ravens are also scavengers.
Here is one of the youngest in our group holding a snake that really seemed to be enjoying the attention. With the cooler temperatures, I think they actually preferred being handled by nice, warm hands - even if they weren't always the gentlest. :-D The kids were really great with them, overall. Just a few accidental rough moments.
The place doesn't hold a candle to Narcisse, of course - that's one of a kind - but even with how few snakes there were today (and there were still a surprising number, considering the chill), we had such fun. I think it's just great that the owner allows people to come and visit them like this, too. I've been told these snakes had originally been on another piece of property in the area, but when the new owner discovered them, was actually going to kill them off if something wasn't done about it. So the snakes were moved, thanks to this woman who was willing to take them in. All 10's of thousands of them! I'm amazed that they were willing to stay on the new site. Garter snakes like to return to the same dens every year.
What a great day!