A Vancouver Island resident, the Western-Terrestrial garter snake, hunts for some small fish underwater. (Photo courtesy of Frank Ritcey/Facebook)

A Vancouver Island resident, the Western-Terrestrial garter snake, hunts for some small fish underwater. (Photo courtesy of Frank Ritcey/Facebook)

Vancouver Island home to a healthy, useful four-species snake population

Islanders have nothing to fear from these scaly neighbours, none are harmful to people

If people on Vancouver Island come across snakes while enjoying the outdoors this spring, one nature enthusiast says there’s nothing to worry about.

You may even want to invite it back to your home garden.

Frank Ritcey, a former provincial coordinator for Wildsafe BC, says all of the Island’s snakes are harmless to people and they can be welcome helpers to rid pests, like slugs and insects, from your garden.

Vancouver Island is home to four snake species, including the common Western Terrestrial and Northwestern garter snakes and the rarer Sharp-Tailed snake.

“The garter snakes are really quite innocuous, so there’s nothing to really be concerned about,” said Ritcey.

But even with their pest-control benefits, green-thumbed Islanders might want to hold the invite if they have fish ponds in their garden. That’s because garter snakes prey on small fish. Ritcey said the snakes can stay submerged for around 10 minutes and have adapted to a point where they’re fast enough to catch fish underwater.

READ: Giant marine worms rising from burrows along Vancouver Island coast

He said that even though garters are venomous, their venom is too weak to harm humans and they don’t have the 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.

B.C. residents in the Interior should be a little more wary of the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, although Ritcey said it’s very rare for people to get bit and the key is not to endanger the snake in the first place.

“The snake has no reason to bite you, so the only reason it’s going to bite is in defense of itself, so as long as you leave the snakes alone, they’re going to leave you alone.”

Even though they’re not a threat, Ritcey understands that the Island’s slithering serpents still many people squeamish. But for a lifelong wildlife lover like Ritcey, a snake-seeing trip to Vancouver Island never disappoints.

“I always enjoyed coming to the Island, because I knew I could always find lots of snakes.”

He said Vancouver Island’s healthy snake population is due to its suitable climate, abundance of food sources and ample resting spots.

If people do come across a snake, there’s a good chance it’ll just be one.

“Snakes are definitely loners,” Ritcey said.

However, tens of snakes – including different species – will congregate to den together during the winter months. Ritcey gave the example of how rattlesnakes and Western Yellow-Bellied Racers will eat each other during warmer months “but when they go to den, it’s almost like there’s a truce and they can share the same den.”

More information on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s snakes can be found at bcreptiles.ca/.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:jake.romphf@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

VictoriaWest Shore

Just Posted

Email letters to the editor to editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish online and in print.
LETTER: Port McNeill councillor responds to May 12 North Island Rising column

‘council raised residential taxes for no reason and I stand by that statement’

The seasonal Search and Rescue program will run between May to September. ( File photo/Canadian Coast Guard)
Coast Guard Inshore Rescue Program starting up next week

Teams have protocols in place to ensure COVID-19 safety

Shearwater is located in the Great Bear Rainforest on the West Coast of B.C. (Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association photo)
Heiltsuk Nation buys historic Shearwater Resort and Marina

Chief Marilyn Slett said Heiltsuk Nation has always valued its relationship with the company

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident on Island nets almost 10-year sentence

Saanich man was arrested without incident north of Courtenay in 2018

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read