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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns gives a thumbs up to active transportation during a presentation of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce's Bike SEAT program at McLean Mill National Historic site in Port Alberni on April 16, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
QUINN’S QUIPS: MP Gord Johns takes victory ride for cycling strategy

Johns gained a reputation as the bicycle-riding MP during his first year

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Volunteers from the Alberni Valley Enhancement Society release a bucket filled with 5,000 coho fry into Kitsuksis Creek on the bridge at Batty Road, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVID HOOPER)
Volunteers release thousands of coho fry into Port Alberni creeks

Fry come from small hatchery on McLean Mill National Historic Site

In the five years since the Dry Creek flood abatement project was completed, the pathway built behind commercial buildings on Third Avenue has become overgrown with Scotch broom and other weeds. (PHOTO COURTESY RANDY FRASER)
‘New’ Dry Creek path falls into disrepair in Port Alberni

City’s land access contracts lapse as condition of pathway beside creek deteriorates

May is Hospice month and the kickoff for a new fundraiser. Mayor Sharie Minions, centre, declared it with hospice services coordinator Victoria Snow, left, and AV Hospice executive director Teresa Ludvigson. (SONJA DRINKWATER / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Alberni Valley Hospice Society invites community to ‘Step Out’ for Ty Watson House

The event is the society’s COVID-19 answer to fundraising

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy Creek

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read