It’s a bad guy in many literary references. It’s Indiana Jones’ worst nightmare. It represents temptation, chaos and cunning. Today – on World Snake Day – we want to try to smooth out the snake’s reputation and tip the scales in his favour!
Alberta is home to six species of snake including:
- Plains garter snake
- Prairie rattlesnake
- Red-sided garter snake
- Wandering garter snake
- Western hog-nosed snake
What’s your poison?
Of our province’s six species, only the prairie rattlesnake has a venom that is harmful to humans – and no one in Alberta has ever died from bites from prairie rattlesnakes. Bites can, however, be very painful and will require medical attention. Any bite, whether it’s from a snake or another animal, can lead to infection and if you are bitten by a snake, even if it is not poisonous, you should seek medical attention to ensure that it’s properly cleaned.
No bark and not a lot of bite
If threatened, injured or captured, snakes will defend themselves by various means including:
- Striking (with mouth open or closed)
- Body enlargement by spreading ribs in the neck or body
- Rattling of the tail (in rattlesnakes)
If that doesn’t work some snakes will bite in self-defence, but it is usually a last resort. Unless you are trying to severely provoke, harm or capture a snake, it is very unlikely you will be bitten.
How to help snakes
We can all play a part in ensuring the survival of snakes in our province. Disregard all the negative tales and attitudes of snakes and learn to respect them for the important role they play in the natural world. You are not expected to fall in love with them (not at first anyways) but please do not harm any snakes you encounter, just let them be and allow them to continue on their way.
Watch for snakes on roads, particularly in southern Alberta, and do your best to avoid running them over.
Maintain healthy ecosystems and avoid the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals that reduce their food supply.
If you have any questions or concerns about snakes in your area, call a Fish and Wildlife officer – they will be happy to provide you with the information you need and help ensure both you and the snakes are safe.
So while we don’t recommend you hug a snake today – we hope you have a greater understanding and respect for one very interesting and talked about reptile!