Part wildlife conservation preserve, part ophidiophobic nightmare, Canada’s Narcisse Snake Dens see tens of thousands of garter snakes arrive each year to sleep and mate in huge slithering piles of serpentine chaos.
At one point the population of red-sided garter snakes in the area of Narcisse, Canada approached 70,000, but terrible weather and an unprecedented number of the beasts being crushed while crossing the roads quickly eroded the population size.
In the early 2000s, the snake population was dangerously low. In order to remedy this depopulation, the Narcisse Snake Pits Wildlife Management Area was established. Snake-crossing tunnels were created under the roads, and snow guards were installed to funnel the creatures into them, leading towards the wildlife area. New signs cautioned drivers to slow down during peak season.
With all these measures in place, the population of snakes in the area rebounded. Now the wildlife area has become a popular attraction where visitors come to witness the thriving creatures.
Each year, hordes of snakes come to hibernate in the natural crevasses and tunnels eroded into the porous limestone in the ground. With the thaw of the snow and ice each spring, the sleeping serpents awake and quickly get to making babies in huge, teeming orgies among the grasses outside of their limestone sleeping holes. Despite the seeming impropriety of leering at a bunch of snakes having sex, this is the prime serpent-watching season.
The Atlas Obscura Podcast is a short, daily celebration of all the world’s strange and wondrous places. Check out this episode about the Narcisse Snake Dens.