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Narcisse Snake Dens

A living-room-size den holds thousands of red-sided garter snakes. Would you dare to hold one?


Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin
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Narcisse Snake Dens, 68 mi (110 km) north of Winnipeg, are home to the world's largest snake congregation in the world. In early September (sometimes late August), tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes gather in the area, preparing to winter in massive limestone sinkholes the size of an average living room. In the flat Interlake region of Manitoba, which is also frozen for half the year, there are no better places for hibernation. Yet the prime time to watch this sea of snakes is when they appear from their dens in spring for mating season. The breeding happens for a short period between late April and mid-May. The actual date varies depending on the temperature. A few days too early or too late, and you won't see many snakes.

When the time comes, males surface first and wait patiently for the generally larger females. As females emerge on the surface, a mating dance begins. Dozens of males gather around a single female creating a so-called "mating ball": all try to mate with her, but only the luckiest one gains the trophy.

People from all around the world visit Southern Manitoba for this ultimate reptile encounter. Usually, kids are keener on interacting with the cold fast-moving "worms," and don't mind holding one, while adults are usually more apprehensive. However, all snakes in the Narcisse Wildlife Management Area are absolutely harmless. Besides, boardwalks are made for visitors to comfortably observe the dens with minimal impact on the natural environment.

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