THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Snake encounters have shaken up a number of Okanagan residents in the last few days — including one in an apartment building — and a wildlife control expert says in many cases, it has to do with the weather.
Pete Wise runs a wildlife control service based in Vernon and says he’s had his hands full with about 14 snake calls across the valley in the last two days.
Rattlesnakes came out early this year due to the hot weather, but with temperatures cooling down in the evenings Wise says rattlesnakes, and other snakes, are looking for places to keep their body temperatures up, and that can lead to encounters with humans.
“Right now what’s happening is it’s really warm in the daytime, but the ambient air temperature drops quickly at night, so the snakes are moving out onto pavement and driveways to get as much heat as they can to make it through the night,” Wise says.
Wise says leaving your front door open is like an invitation for the creatures to come inside, particularly in areas near snake habitats.
It was a bit of a different scenario that woke Wise up around 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 20, though. He received a call from the RCMP about a five foot long snake inside a Vernon apartment building. Wise believes the blood red corn snake, which police kept corralled until he arrived, was actually a pet that had escaped.
“It got out and caused a big scare going down the hallway,” Wise says.
In terms of native snakes, of which the Okanagan has six, Wise says his approach is to catch them and relocate them within 500 metres of where they were found.
“They’re habituated to their habitat, you don’t want to move them too far away,” he says. “They play a huge role on the environment, the impact on the mouse population is amazing.”
His most common call out is for gopher snakes, which are non-venomous but resemble rattlesnakes.
“His defence mechanism is to curl up, hiss and wiggle his tail like a rattlesnake — he’ll scare the hell out of you,” Wise says.
You can call Wise for help identifying, and handling, a snake, if you think it might be poisonous. If you’re not too squeamish, Wise says you can deal with it on your own.
“I recommend getting a garbage can, taking the snake and scooping it in. Walk off the property and let him go,” Wise says.
Rattlesnakes in particular are known to be in and around Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, as well as in the areas of Crystal Waters Road in Lake Country, Bella Vista Road and Tronson Road in Vernon, Wise says.
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