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 residents need not fear if snakes are near: wildlife enthusiast

The Island is home to four species of snakes, but 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 and 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/.


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

The Oak Bay fire training tower came down May 10 after it was previously deemed not up to standard for modern training use. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Condemned fire training tower comes down in Oak Bay

Infrastructure taken down won’t hamper firefighter training

The Capital Regional District has approved its plan that aims to reduce its total waste by about a third by 2030. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD board approves plan aimed at cutting waste by a third by 2030

Solid Waste Management Plan to start tackling Greater Victoria’s largest waste sources

New changes are being proposed to four streets in James Bay to allow better access for cyclists. Residents have until June 11 to provide feedback. (Black Press Media file photo)
New revisions to James Bay bike lanes open for feedback

Routes on Government and Montreal streets planned for 2022

An elderly man having a medical emergency in Mount Douglas Park on May 13 was rescued by firefighters and paramedics with the help of ATVs. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Rescue team uses ATVs get man in medical distress out of Saanich park and to hospital

Cedarhill Road closed as firefighters, paramedics rescue man in Mount Douglas Park

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 11

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Most Read