Vancouver Island is an ophidiophobic’s paradise – while there are snakes everywhere, if you’re scared of snakes, there is comfort in knowing none of them are poisonous.
The Island’s snakes are underappreciated and poorly understood, even though they are harmless to humans.
What’s more, they can be a green thumb’s best friend, helping to rid gardens of pests such as slugs and insects. Thanks to a suitable climate, abundance of food sources and ample resting spots, the Island supports a healthy population of four snake species, including three species of garter snake and the rarer Sharp-tailed snake.
“Garter snakes are really quite innocuous, so there’s nothing to really be concerned about,” said Frank Ritcey, a snake enthusiast and former provincial coordinator for Wildsafe BC, in a recent article published in the North Island Gazette.
But even with their pest-control benefits, green-thumbed Islanders might want to be wary if they have fishponds. Garter snakes prey on small fish. They can stay submerged for up to 10 minutes and are fast enough to catch fish underwater. Though garter snakes are venomous, Ritcey said their venom is too weak to harm humans. They also lack fangs to deliver it.
“When a garter snake bites its prey, it moves its jaw back and forth, and the venom drips out from the jaw, into the wound,” he said.
He understands that the Island’s slithering serpents make some people squeamish. However, for Ritcey, a snake-spotting trip to Vancouver Island never disappoints.
“I always enjoyed coming to the Island, because I knew I could always find lots of snakes.”
And if people do come across a snake, there’s a good chance it’ll just be one.
“Snakes are definitely loners,” Ritcey said, adding that they will congregate to den together during the winter months.
You can find more information on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s snakes at bcreptiles.ca/.