Ottawa funds snake research in Saskatchewan
Scientists in Saskatchewan are getting some cash from Ottawa to learn more about a rare green-and-yellow snake.
This week, a federal grant of $25,000 was made to study the eastern yellow-bellied racer.
Southwestern Saskatchewan is the only place in Canada where populations of the reptile can be found.
Ray Poulin, a research scientist with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, has spent the past few summers researching the elusive racer, and the new federal grant will let him continue the work.
But the study of small, fast snakes that prefer to be underground has its challenges.
"Being caught out in the open on the grassland, if you're a small animal like a snake … you end up on the menu for many different predators, whether it's a fox or a coyote or a hawk or an owl or a badger," Poulin said.
When researchers catch one of these snakes, they implant a tiny radio transmitter under its skin so they can track them. They've found two new dens that way.
This summer, Poulin said, they'd like to find some nests.
"Where do these snakes lay their eggs? And is there something about that habitat that we should be either protecting or managing in a way that helps protect the species?"
The eastern yellow-bellied racer has been designated a threatened species.
Scientists say the racer and other snakes play an important role on the Prairies, controlling gophers, mice, grasshoppers and other pests.