February 26, 2015. Wildlife Rescue is dealing with a deluge of more than 500 garter snakes after they were disturbed from their hibernation den during dike repair work in Delta.
The first 12 snakes arrived at the Wildlife Rescue Care Centre on Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 25) and a further 500 were delivered Thursday following the removal of rip-rap (rubble/rocks used to fortify shorelines, etc) from the Boundary Bay Dike works near Beach Grove in Delta. The reconstruction of the dike is being carried out by SNC-Lavalin Inc on behalf of Delta Corporation and all of the rocks have now been removed from the work site.
During the fall and winter months, garter snakes gather together to brumate (a form of reptilian hibernation). They cluster in empty burrows or holes under rocks in dens known as hibernacula.
When local residents reported the possible presence of hibernating snakes prior to the start of the repair work, the construction team applied for permits from the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource to allow for the removal of the snakes. They then formulated a rescue plan which involved over-wintering the disturbed snakes at Wildlife Rescue, one of the busiest Wildlife Rehabilitation centres in Canada.
A few more snakes arrived on Friday but all the snakes are now believed to be recovered from the site. Each one has been examined and placed in a large plastic container with a thick layer of damp wood shavings and a dish of distilled water. Each sealed container houses at least 20 snakes. The tubs are being stored in a dark, cool, secure outdoor enclosure to allow the snakes to continue their hibernation until early April. When temperatures rise above 14°C and the risk of frost has passed, the snakes will be released back to Delta.
“We get a few snakes in each year but this is just extraordinary. We’ve never seen anything like this before and we have never treated so many animals in a single day,” says Linda Bakker, Wildlife Rescue’s Team Leader of Wildlife Rehabilitation.
“We’ve been working as quickly as we can to check the snakes individually and get them housed and settled so that they can continue their hibernation in peace. It has been quite an intense operation but we are pleased that we have been able to play our part in saving them.”
Rehabilitation staff have identified three species of garter snake, the common garter snake, the northwestern garter snake and the western terrestrial garter snake. During their stay at Wildlife Rescue, the snakes will not need food but they may wake up for water. While most of the snakes are healthy, a few are being treated for their injuries. The hibernating snakes will be checked every few days by staff and weekly by a biologist.
Images are available on request.
Yolanda Brooks, Communications Manager
Tel: 604 526 2747, ext. 504