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Sunday, 27 September 2009

I Love Manitoba (16): Snakes on a Plain

Last week Manitoba Housing announced that it would do a better job snake-proofing an Inwood MB seniors' home after complaints that garter snakes were invading it on their migration back to the Narcisse Snake Dens for winter hibernation. Coincidentally, I know someone who recently moved to Winnipeg who also wanted to see the dens so a road trip was in order !

Warm, sunny days in the spring and fall are the best time to see them as they sunbathe on the rocks. Unfortunately, Saturday was the least sunny, warm day of last week but we thought we would give it a shot.

The dens are in what is called the Narcisse Wildlife Management Area about an hour and a half drive from Winnipeg. They are the largest concentration of snakes in the world and attract researchers from around the world.

Of course, prior to getting there was my usual dilly-dallying on the side roads.... On the way there is St. Stephen's Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Pleasant Home MB, near Teulon. It was one of the first Ukrainian settlements in Manitoba c 1898. All that seems to exist now is the church.

Another stop along the way is Inwood, MB, a village of 200 people (and lots more snakes !). Inwood is home to Sam and Sara, the world's largest garter snakes:
And, apparently, a dog named Pube:
If you want to set a movie in a small prairie town Inwood has some great original architecture !
I also saw this. An odd row of graves. Seems like there was a church there for a short time in the 40's (most of the graves are from 1940 - 1944). They got one row done, added one to a second row and that was it ?!
Now back to the dens. The centre is quite simple. There are washroom facilities and a signed path takes you through the prairie with four den areas along the route. The dens are actually underground crevasses in the limestone. Each den area has a large rocky opening and that's where the snakes congregate.
A little freaky is that when you're in the wooded areas you can hear snakes absolutely everywhere around you. Thankfully, garter snakes don't climb trees or that would have been too creepy !

An interesting place. I definitely want to go back when I can catch a perfect snake day !


Related:
- The First Ukrainians in MB MHS
- Ukrainian settlers in MB: Early Days in Pleasant Home
- Fact Sheet: Red-sided Garter Snake
- Narcisse Wildlife Mangement Area

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