More than 500 garter snakes are returning to their home on Boundary Bay Dike in Delta following a successful rescue and recovery mission carried out by the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC, the Corporation of Delta and SNC-Lavalin.
The snakes were unearthed at the beginning of March during repair work on a rock dike being carried out by SNC-Lavalin on behalf of the Corporation of Delta. When local residents voiced their concern about a possible snake hibernaculum (hibernation den) under the rocks, biologists and environmental officers from the two organizations developed a rescue plan to save any snakes that may be disturbed.
On the first day of the work, the team rescued 12 snakes. Three days later, more than 500 garter snakes had been removed from the site, making it the largest discovery of its kind in BC. The snakes were transferred to Wildlife Rescue’s facilities in Burnaby were they were placed in plastic tubs with dampened wood shavings and water. The containers were placed in a cool and quiet location on site to allow the snakes to continue their brumation (a reptilian version of hibernation).
Three species of garter snake – the common garter snake, the northwestern garter snake and the western terrestrial garter snake – were rescued from the rocks. Most went straight back into hibernation but a few that were injured were treated by Wildlife Rescue rehabilitation staff. Some of these snakes are still receiving treatment and will be released at a later date.
“This operation has been a tremendous joint effort and we are pleased that over 95% of the snakes have survived the ordeal and will be returned safely to their home,” says Gordon White, Acting Executive Director of Wildlife Rescue. “We applaud Delta and SNC-Lavalin for having a rescue plan in place before they started the work. Human activity can impact wildlife in so many ways but by being proactive, they minimized the disruption caused and ensured that the vast majority of snakes were unharmed.”
Due to the unusually mild weather, the release of the snakes has been brought forward by two weeks. The timing of the release will allow the snakes to emerge from hibernation in a familiar location, mate and disperse as usual. They will be tagged prior to release so that a team of biologists can follow their progress over the next few days and throughout the rest of the year.
The snakes will be released close to the site of their original hibernaculum in the Beach Grove area of Boundary Bay in Delta on Sunday, March 22.
Images are available upon request.
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