Manitoba

Mysterious Wonder

Red sided Garter SnakeCourtesy of Paul HancockEach year from late April through May, a visit to the Interlake Region of Manitoba, Canada could take you to an area that some call “One of the Wonders of the Natural World.” Researchers estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 red-sided garter snakes spend the winter months within the area known as the Narcisse Snake Dens every year, making them among largest congregations of any vertebrate species on Earth.

Interlake Region of Manitoba MapCourtesy of Manitoba Wildlife and Ecosystem Protection BranchIf you were to visit these dens you may notice a light rustling, like wind blowing through a tree’s branches. The sound of tens of thousands of scales rubbing together becomes increasingly palpable as your distance to the dens gets shorter. When you are finally close enough to see the cause of the noise, it becomes clear: It is not the fact that there are snakes in those dens, nor is it the type of snakes that makes these dens so amazing. What sets this area apart from every other place in the world is the number of snakes that congregate within these dens. Although it is easy to spot the thousands of snakes, it is not easy to understand how or why all of these snakes choose to make this area their home. What is it about this frigid northern territory that brings the snakes back year after year? The answer to that question involves a few very different puzzle pieces coming together to create a picture. Join us as we solve the puzzle of the snake dens and learn more about their intriguing inhabitants.