Tens of thousands of red sided garter snakes appear here Narcisse, Manitoba on spring season. It is their annual mating ritual that draws thousands of people to visit the Canadian province.
The area around Narcisse is so attractive to snakes for the same reasons many farmers abandoned it decades ago: Its thin topsoil sits on top of limestone that water has gradually eroded underground, creating a network of small caves that can be entered through sinkholes.
“It is likely the biggest concentration of snakes in the world,” said Prof. Robert T. Mason, a professor of integrative biology at Oregon State University, who has come to Narcisse every spring since 1982.
“It’s amazing to me how many people want to see these snakes,” he said. “They are perfect ambassadors for the reptile world.”
Scientists, including Professor Mason, often do their research at smaller snake pit areas on private land. But Manitoba’s wildlife service has established a park around what it prefers to call snake dens — not “snake pits” — that are the winter home of an estimated 70,000 of the creatures.
Did you just read 70,000 snakes? Yes, you just did.
More details of this hissing story over at The New York Times.
(Image Credit: Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times)