Garter snake population ‘healthy’ around Saskatoon

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WATCH ABOVE: The plains garter snake is thriving in Saskatoon – Jul 17, 2019

More than 3,500 species of snakes exist in the world — nine of which can be found in Saskatchewan.

In Saskatoon, the plains garter snake is most common.

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Typically measuring up to two feet in length, they thrive in areas like the Northeast Swale because of its abundance of food and habitat, but are common throughout the river valley as well.

According to Meewasin Valley Authority’s senior interpreter, Kenton Lysak, these snakes have an important role in our ecosystem.

“They’re kind of like the bodyguard of the wetlands,” he explained.

“Things like mice or grasshoppers that, say, eat agricultural crops — they go into those areas, clean up the pests and allow nutrients to be cycled within our ecosystems.”

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“They’re really fantastic animals to have in your garden,” said Sheri Hodgson, with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan (WRSOS).

“They eat a lot of slugs and some common garden pests.”

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The snake population around Saskatoon is healthy according to Lysak, but it generally follows temperature trends. The average Saskatchewan summer is exactly what they are looking for.

“If we see dry years snakes don’t have as much food,” he said. “Although they can survive the dry conditions, because they’re reptiles, the numbers tend to drop a bit.”

They’re able to survive winter by hibernating up to six feet underground — typically resurfacing in May.

“In Saskatchewan, we see them come out in the hundreds,” Lysak said. “In places like Manitoba you can see in special areas where they come out in the thousands.”

“Common for people to find these guys in their heated garages or quonsets and things like that in the wintertime — occasionally basements,” Hodgson noted.

A few times per year the WRSOS gets calls about snakes, but Hodgson said it’s more common in Regina.

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During summer, most calls are about incidents with lawnmowers or pets bringing them home.

“They want to try and help it,” she said.

Lysak admits snakes, especially in groups, can be a bit off-putting, but said people need to treat them with res—pect.

“As long as we work with mother nature, you’d be surprised how many benefits we get,” he said.

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