Giant garter snake nabbed in northern Manitoba

A Manitoba reseracher has found the world's largest garter snake, a 12-year-old female that is 1.34 metres long.

A 1.34-metre-long red-sided garter snake slithered from the north end of Lake Winnipeg into the record books last weekend, with the help of a Manitoba snake researcher.

Jonathan Wiens, a master of science student at the University of Manitoba, found the giant garter while studying a snake den near Manitoba Hydro's Jenpeg generating station at the north end of Lake Winnipeg.

The female snake, believed to be about 12 years old, wriggled into one of Wiens' traps last weekend.

"Originally, I didn't know if this was even significant. I think I just thought, 'Wow, this is pretty big!'" Wiens told CBC News on Thursday.

"Once I did a bit of reading and contacted a few professors … [I] found that this is probably the biggest recorded snake in the history of this subspecies."

Known as the 'snake charmer'

Wiens let the snake go after marking it with a number. He said he didn't give her a name, but noted she was a healthy snake with a big mouth.

"I don't really get too attached to them," he said. "I held it for a couple of days to make sure that it was indeed a record, to make sure I had everything recorded properly, but she's just [number] 163.

"I hope to see her again in the fall. I'm hoping she'll put on even more size and then I can recapture her and learn exactly how fast these things can grow."

Wiens, who is known as the "snake charmer" by Manitoba Hydro employees who work near his research area, is studying how garter snakes survive in the extreme climate conditions at the northern end of their range.

Later this spring, he will outfit five garter snakes with devices that will let him track them through the season.

Red-sided garter snakes – the same kind attract tourists to the community of Narcisse each spring – usually grow to only half the size of Weins' find.

Manitoba has the largest population of red-sided garter snakes in Canada.