Forget about spiders or ticks, Canada could be seeing some new creepy-crawlies making their way up north.
New research suggests that climate change is drawing in more venomous snakes northward across the U.S. and into Canada.
By 2050, they could slither as far north as Alberta, Quebec and Ontario as they try to adapt to rising temperatures, the research suggests.
A team of researchers at the University of Kansas’ Biodiversity Institute found that snakebites could increase significantly, especially in rural areas that are ill-equipped to handle poisoning.
Findings are based on models used to predict the ranges of 78 venomous snake species across the Americas. Researchers predicted where the snakes may end up based on the
ideal temperatures the reptiles are suited for.
“These downstream effects of changing climate are affecting all life on earth, very gradually, very subtly but it adds up over years, decades and centuries,” study co-author Andrew Townsend Peterson said.
He is a professor in the ecology and evolutionary biology department at the University of Kansas.
But how far the snakes advance depends on how much the world is able to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the study suggests. For Canada, the worst-case scenario predicts the Timber Rattlesnake will slither up our border, but the venomous reptiles are considered low-risk.
On top of snakes moving north from the equator, they could also be moving south towards Argentina and Chile, where temperatures are cooler.
Snakebites are already a major health problem in many countries, Townsend Peterson said. In the Americas, around 300,000 people are bitten annually and between 650 to 3,500 die from the bite.
But just like snakes, climate change is forcing many species to adapt and move to new habitats, Townsend Peterson explained.
“Changing the average temperature of the planet has massive consequences. As the risk factors change, people need to be aware of the risks, hopefully before someone gets bitten.”