15 surprising facts about Canada’s snakes

garter snake in Victoria BC Tim Zurowski/shutterstock

It may be surprising to learn that snakes don’t just live in warmer climates—they are an important part of many ecosystems within Canada.

Here are 15 more interesting facts about these incredible creatures.

1. There are around 35 species of snakes in Canada, 26 of which are native. However, it’s predicted that the number of species will increase with climate change—including the number of venomous species.

2. There are already four types of venomous snakes in Canada. Australia isn’t the only country with scary slithering creatures. Alberta, Saskatchewan, BC and Ontario all have venomous snakes living within their borders.

3. The Desert Nightsnake, a venomous species, is considered the rarest snake in Canada. Only found in the southern Okanagan and the Lower Similkameen Valley of BC, as few as 50 have been positively identified since 1980.

4. The Massassauga Rattlesnake, another venomous species, calls Ontario’s cottage country home. Primarily residing in eastern Georgian Bay, on the Bruce Peninsula and near the shores of the Great Lakes, it can be identified by its vertical cat-like pupils—if you get close enough to look.

5. The Prairie Rattlesnake is arguably the only dangerous snake in Canada. Living in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, they warn off perceived predators by vibrating their rattles.

6. Canadian snakes are generally harmless. Only three deaths due to rattlesnake bites have ever been reported—the last one being more than 40 years ago.

7. You’re more likely to be hit by lightning than attacked by a snake. Less than a dozen snakebites per year are reported in Canada. Compare that to the United States, where 1,300 children alone are bitten every year.

8. Canada’s snakes survive winter by hibernating. Dependent on the species and region, they may bury themselves under sandy soils, in bedrock fissures, within burrows, in hollow logs, or even, in some cases, within ant mounds.

9. The largest gathering of snakes in the world (yes, that’s a thing) happens right here in Canada. Every year, tens of thousands of Red-sided Garter Snakes emerge from the Narcisse Snake Dens in Manitoba to mate. The spectacle—if you’re brave enough—can be witnessed every May north of Winnipeg.

10. Snakes can be found as far north as the 60th parallel. Manitoba isn’t the only place with snake pits. Red-sided Garter Snakes also mate in Wood Buffalo National Park near Fort Smith, NWT.

11. Garter snakes, which are indigenous to North America, are the most common snakes in Canada. From coast to coast, they can be found in nearly every province and many different ecosystems.

12. Not all of Canada’s snakes are small. The Gray Ratsnake, which is found in Ontario, can grow up to 2.5 metres in length. That makes it Canada’s largest.

13. Some of Canada’s snake bear young live. While snakes often lay eggs, the Northern Brownsnake doesn’t. Instead, its eggs are incubated internally before hatching inside the female’s body.

14. Newfoundland is the only Canadian province without any native snakes. But in recent years Garter Snakes, which may have arrived stowed away on hay bale shipments, have been found breeding in western Newfoundland.

15. Love snakes? Move to Ontario, which has the most species. There are 18 total, including around seven that are found nowhere else in Canada. Hate snakes? Head to Yukon or Nunavut, two places that don’t have any snakes to call their own.