Snakes in Canada

Garter Snake, Forest, Macro, Crawl

How do Manitoba garter snakes survive the cold Canadian prairie winter? Although snakes evolved in the tropics, some of those slimy often feared creatures of the wild and mythology have over the eons evolved to have adapted to cooler and even downright cold climates. Yet snakes for sure cannot survive if actually frosty frozen. How on earth do these animals endure the cold Canadian winters? The answer simply is that these snakes seek shelter in the ground below the cold”frost” line and basically hibernate there doing the long winter season.

The red-sided garter snake that is known to inhabit the”Interlake” areas of the Canadian province of Manitoba ranges further north than any other snake in North America, winters in communal dens, which sometimes can comprise up to 8,000 snakes.

These winter dens are known as”hibernacula” or just”winter dens”. Some of the largest concentrations of them are in the region west of Lake Winnipeg, in the”Interlake” region of Manitoba west of the major centers of Gimli and Winnipeg Beach. These dens are sinkholes from the local limestone stone produced simply when underground caverns have collapsed. The consequent fissures and crevices in the limestone bedrock give the snakes access to depths below the frost line, a requirement since winter temperatures in the area can often dip to minus forty degrees centigrade which translates to – 40 degrees Fahrenheit as well. Its so cold in these areas the local have electric”block” from the engine blocks of the cars that they plug into regular ac electrical jacks in order to start their cars in the dead of their – 40 degrees January winter temperatures.

What is even better is that when spring arrives, usually in early May that hundreds and hundreds of snakes will pour from the dens onto the stones and rockfaces. You would think that you are seeing a sight of more snakes in one location than anywhere else in the world and you are most likely correct.

By early autumn these same garter snakes are now fat and company with lots of carbohydrates and fat out of their summer of feeding. As soon as they return to their dens they will not feed again for another six or seven weeks. They will live off their fat reserves from the summertime feedings. Interestingly these same snakes seem to reach the dens sooner than need be – in fact it could be a month of so before they actually have to arrive. This is still another adaptation time and learnt tested from character. As the fall days get shorter and winter is nearer, temperatures are usually on the cooling trend. Snakes being cold blooded become lethargic during the cooler weather. It’s a case of getting the work done while the iron is hot.

These garter snakes will be safely underground in their winter dens. It may be cold outside – very cold – yet these smart garter snakes, who along with nature sit tight hibernating in temperatures which are a couple of degrees above freezing. You may well believe that these simple garter snakes are smarter than many of the folks you meet on your travels. Its as if they know to plan ahead, to save food and energy and escape the cold and go”south” for the winter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *