News Round-Up

Rattlesnakes on a plain: how cars, pollution and suburbia threaten these mysterious creatures


Just like the hordes of mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners that migrate from their comfortable couches to more open spaces in spring, western rattlesnakes are also on the move, emerging from deep winter dens to their summer foraging grounds.

For years, our research group at Thompson Rivers University has been investigating population trends and movements of the world’s most northerly populations of rattlesnakes, found in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. The western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) is one of three species of rattlesnake found in Canada, and the only one in B.C., although they also live as far south as Baja California.

Snakes are particularly interesting in Canada because their active season — warm temperatures that allow them to go about their lives — is far shorter than it is for their relatives to the south. The harsh Canadian winters limit the places where a rattlesnake can hole up and wait out the snow. This historically lead to dozens of snakes of all different species using communal dens, but this phenomenon is becoming increasingly rare. MORE

Header image: Western rattlesnakes emerging from a winter den. Credit: Marcus Atkins, Author provided.