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New and Interesting

A Visit to the Narcisse Snake Dens

Narcisse Snake Dens

On May 5, 2014, I visited the Narcisse Snake Dens. Located about a hundred kilometres north of Winnipeg, these dens are the hibernation site of tens of thousands of Red-sided Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis), the prairie subspecies of the Common Garter Snake. When they emerge each spring, they’re something of a tourist attraction, one that gets featured in the Canadian media. I don’t know how many government-supported tourist attractions there are in the world that are dedicated to snakes and snake conservation, but there can’t be many, and this is one of them.

For anyone interested in garter snakes, or even snakes in general, the Narcisse Snake Dens are a must-visit. Every spring, the garter snakes emerge ready to mate. A single mating ball — a large female surrounded by anything from several to dozens of male suitors — is impressive enough, but when thousands are out and about in the same location … well, you’ve never seen snakes so thick on the ground.

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Why Do Garter Snake Keepers Like Garter Snakes?
Articles, In which I come up with some reasons why some reptile keepers might prefer garter snakes over other snakes. »
Why Don’t Reptile Keepers Appreciate Garter Snakes?
Articles, I look at some of the reasons why garter snakes aren’t more popular among reptile keepers. »
Keeping Garter Snakes Outdoors
Questions, Recently I’ve received a couple of questions from readers who want to know about keeping garter snakes outdoors. Now I understand that this is actually done in Europe: garter snake keepers there set up these elaborate backyard facilities to house… »
‘That Reptile Smell’ and Beginner Garters
Questions, Jack writes: Hi! I’m 13 years old and am looking into getting a garter snake. I have a suitable enclosure and equipment and can provide food, read your care guide along with some others, and there is now just one… »

News and Updates

The Evolution of Garter Snake Toxin Resistance

New research into newt toxin resistance in garter snakes explores the DNA of the snakes’ sodium channels: while western garter snakes have evolved TTX resistance in their muscle channels, all garter snakes, even eastern snakes who encounter newts far less toxic, have evolved resistance in their nerve channels, which suggests that those channels evolved first, and that garter snakes have been eating newts for a long time. Article.

Gartersnake.info has linked to a lot of previous research on garter snakes’ resistance to newt toxins:

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Snakes Swarm Saskatchewan
News, That snakes turn up in people’s basements at the onset of winter is a known thing, but a house near Regina, Saskatchewan has had a few more than usual. Last month it was reported that 102 Plains Garter Snakes had… »
Garter Snakes Threatened by Fire, Grazing in U.S. Southwest
News, A couple of items on garter snakes at risk in the U.S. southwest. Last month, the Arizona Daily sun reported on the impact of serious wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico on the endangered Narrow-headed Garter Snake (AP story; see… »
Giant Garter Receives 140 Acres in Mitigation
News, Due to mitigation rules for endangered species, 140 acres of habitat, including 60 acres of new wetland, is being set aside in San Joaquin County, California, for the Giant Garter Snake, the Stockton, California Record reports. Those 60 acres will… »
Alaska Garter Snake Identified
News, A road-killed garter snake found near Haines, Alaska in 2005 has been identified. In a brief note published in the Journal of Herpetology in 2011 (PDF), researches using mtDNA testing identified the snake as a Northwestern Garter Snake, Thamnophis ordinoides…. »