The Snakes of Narcisse


For those of you who dislike snakes, this is not the place for you! Located in Manitoba, Canada is the world’s largest gathering of red-sided garter snakes. You’re most likely to see these massive groupings in the early spring or fall. So if you don’t like snakes, this wouldn’t be a good time to plan your Manitoba vacation. However; if you do like harmless snakes, these are exactly the times you should be going to see the snakes of Narcisse.

In the early spring when the ground starts to warm up, so do the snakes who have made the Narcisse Snake Dens their winter home. They emerge from their crevices to embrace the light of day, and also each other. As the tens of thousands of snakes exit from their homes, making the ground appear to live and breathe, they hang around for one to three weeks.

The males are usually the first to exit and they all wait around with the same thing on their minds, women! What a surprise to be that first female to come out of hibernation and be surrounded by hundreds of male’s, all wanting her. This giant display of the necessity to reproduce carries on for the entire one to three weeks that they stay in the area. When everyone is satisfied, they all slither off to enjoy the summer.


In the fall they all return. Despite the losses due to nature and humans, the numbers are taken up by those new baby snakes that were a product of the spring. As they gather together again, this time to retreat for the cold months, their mating ritual is once again performed. These insect eating snakes, have the whole survival thing mastered.

In the summertime, we have dozens of baby garter snakes slithering around in our backyard. My daughter makes me walk through the grass before her, so that I can scare them away. I don’t mind snakes as long as they keep their distance and don’t touch me. Walking through the grass barefoot and stepping on an unsuspecting snake has taught me that garter snakes really are harmless and to always wear my shoes during snake season. So if you’re thinking of taking a trip to see the snakes of Narcisse and you’re a little squeamish, definitely avoid wearing sandals. I know I wouldn’t want a wiggly passenger hitching a ride.

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Julie Antonson

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