Saskatoon

Research team gathering info on Sask.'s largest snake species

This summer a team from the University of Regina plans to find, study and monitor bull snakes found in the South Saskatchewan River valley at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park.

Bull snakes can grow up to nearly two metres long, but are harmless to humans

Tera Edkins and a team from the U of R are hoping to learn everything there is to know about the bull snake. (Tera Edkins/Submitted to CBC)

It's the biggest snake species found on the prairies, but scientists know very little about the bull snake.

This summer a team from the University of Regina is finding, studying and monitoring bull snakes found in the South Saskatchewan River valley at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park.

Tera Edkins is part of the team and she told CBC Radio's Morning Edition, the docile bull snakes can get up to three-metres long, but they pose no threat to people.

"We're too big for them to eat. Also, they are the calmest snake we have in the province," Edkins said.

"They rarely bite, they won't attack you, they're so docile, so calm and people think these big snakes are dangerous."
Bull snakes are the largest species of snakes in Saskatchewan, but pose no threat to humans. (Tera Edkins/Submitted to CBC)

She said bull snakes are not venomous snakes — instead they kill prey through constriction and then swallow it whole.

Part of her work this summer out at Diefenbaker Lake focused on educating people at the lake not to be afraid of the bull snake, despite its intimidating size.

Getting to know the bull snake

So far this summer Edkins said the team has caught 17 bull snakes. Each one has gone through a series of tests and then slithered away with a little extra in their bellies.

"We take body measurements, a blood sample and then we take them to the Veterinary College in Saskatoon and the vets there implant a radio-transmitter," Edkins said.

"It's like each bull snake has its own frequency emitting a beep and so we go around all summer with this giant antenna and receiver and we can follow our bull snakes around."

Right now the snake is currently listed as data deficient, meaning there's not enough information or research to actually know the population numbers, said Edkins. She's hoping to find some answers at the end of the summer.

Before heading to Saskatchewan Landing, the team spent time recording data from bull snakes they observed in the Big Muddy Valley and the Frenchman River Valley.

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition

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