Tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes may be dead in dens

A major die-off of snakes in the Narcisse area has been confirmed by Natural Resources. After examining the site last week, wildlife officers returned to the site this week to excavate more dens. Inside they found hundreds more dead snakes.

The total number of red-sided garter snakes that died in hibernation could number in the tens of thousands.

Biologist Ron Larche says it will be about a year before they can estimate how many were lost.

"To try to get an estimate of the number of snakes still using the area, we will have to wait until next spring until we can do a mark recapture study and arrive at an estimate of the number of snakes still using the den," Larche said. "We do know from a mark recapture study last year we had 65,000 snakes using the area."

The snake dens in Manitoba's Interlake are in a protected wildlife management area. The site is a unique feature that has attracted visitors from around the world.

Larche says officials are consulting with international snake experts to try to figure out what happened. He says biologists believe the reptiles died of natural causes.