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

Victoria-born, 16-time Grammy winning musician David Foster penned a letter to the Greater Victoria School District May 7 urging them not to cut music programs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
David Foster joins fight to save music in Greater Victoria School District

‘Music is the great equalizer’ Foster wrote in a letter to the district

‘Nindanikoobijiganag: We are Star People’ by Mississauga Nishnaabe Lucbanin artist Estrella Whetung. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria beadwork exhibit speaks to evolving, enduring nature of Indigenous art

On Beaded Ground features work from West Coast artists and a Cedar Hill Middle School group

Former Victoria HarbourCat and Chicago White Sox player Andrew Vaughn. (Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox)
Former Victoria HarbourCat hits first MLB home run, adds another two days later

Andrew Vaughn is the first HarbourCat alumni to hit a homer in the majors

A seniors housing complex proposed for Cedar Hill Road in Saanich was supported by council after a public hearing on May 12. (Rendering by Jenson Group Architects)
New 85-unit seniors housing development gets green light from Saanich council

Four-storey rental complex would be located on Cedar Hill Road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Most Read