Friday, July 13

Love Manitoba: Narcisse Snake Dens

In the winter my brother-in-law sent me a link to a set of snake pits, called the Narcisse Snake Dens, that were not far out of Winnipeg and suggested I go.  As the spring approached, I heard many references on the radio, from friends, as well as at other events that snake were beginning to wake up early this year and try to find a mate with whom to reproduce.  Time for another Love Manitoba trip.  

Only one of my Love Manitoba friends was able to make it to the snake dens but we still had a great time.  As we approached the sight we saw small fences, and I am talking small fences, 10-12 inches high, along the highway.  They were so short but meant for the wee snakes we were about to meet, so that they did not meet their death as squashed long meat on the highway.

We parked, gathered our few belonging and noticed that the first thing we forgot was a picnic.  In the heat of a summery May and with tables available we could have brought a light snack or a lunch, which we were not aware as an option.  Shrugging our shoulders and walking on, we noticed several boards pointing out what was in store for our visit.  

There were four snake pits, all active, but with two containing the most number of snakes.  The dirt path led us through and around short trees and bushes to the first deep snake pit.  With a fence to ensure we would not jump in the pit, we saw the following wee snakes.  I was expecting larger ones to be honest having grown up with the images of Indiana Jones falling into the snake pit with huge snakes, or attempting to get out of quicksand with a snake.  Even so, there were A LOT of snakes!!!  

Many bodies and tails.
One wee head.
Snakes all piled on each other in a frenzy.

In view was a pit about 30 feet around with various levels of vegetation, rocks and small alcoves.  In the midst of this natural setting small snakes piled one on top of the other.  The movement of each pile was never-ending and a soon as a pile was created, is morphed into a smaller grouping until only 5-10 snakes were left, then another pile would build a short ways off.  Quite amazing.

We watched the first den and moved on to the second, where the viewers were higher up on a rounded precipice with a fence looking 20 feet down and out about 60 feet out at another area full of vegetation, rocks, dark dirt, and snakes.  

Snakes appeared to be dripping off the edge of the den.
They just kept on moving up, down, around, all over.

The occasional snake took a break and enjoyed some sun.

We were in luck at the second den as an interpretive guide appeared and my friend and I sequestered him for a while and rapid fired questions.  He explained that this was mating season and there were far more male snakes than females, all with the biological need to mate.  As it turns out there is one, ONE female at the bottom of each pile, and HUNDREDS of male snakes on top of her all vying for her attention as she picked a mate.  We asked if she does get to pick and he said yes, that it is in her biological make-up to pick a mate each spring.  He has seen piles as many as 150-200 snakes large.  Imagine being the small wee female snake at the bottom of that pile!?!  Wow!  Animal behaviour.  Quite amazing!

Our trusty park interpretative guide.
Where is the female?  Who knows!

In the third den there was less activity and more individual and small groups of snakes just slithering about.  The snakes had begun their mating early this year but some were sticking to their usual schedule.  

Calm snakes in the sexual storm.
At the last snake pit I took the opportunity to hold a snake that had escaped its thin, small, shallow pit.  With families about, kids holding touching and shrieking, and pets chasing snakes, this pit was active with humans and noise.  

I really liked the yellow and bright orange stripes on the snakes.
Funny enough, my nail polish that day matched.

Many years ago in the 1980's my two mature and extremely cool cousins came to visit and live with us in Belgium for one year.  They flitted about Europe on various travels (while I was stuck going to grade 7, still kinda bitter) returning with trinkets and presents they had purchased themselves.  Cousin Rebecca was obsessed with the recent trend of snake jewelry and purchased herself a snake necklace, earrings and bracelet.  I wrapped the snake around my wrist and it stayed to hang out.  I remembered the jewelry at this moment and took these few pictures for her.  I wonder what ever happened to those pieces?  

My snake skin/real bracelet

The bracelet begins to climb

If you are ever out this way in late April or early May, head to the Narcisse Snake Dens for fun with some little, wiggly creatures that will put a smile on your face.  Remember, snakes aren't slimy they are slithery.  Two very different things.


  1. Hello Tonia,

    Hard not to read every word! And to think about the Adam and Eve myth and wonder -- why is it that a small shiver went over my body during the first part of the read?

    Thanks for all of the information about snakes. I would never have dreamed that you would be someone who might like live snake jewellery.


  2. this might need to be on my list. when does it get warm there?

  3. The snakes come out usually in May and early June but the spring of 2012 was early and they appeared in late April, early May. Come for a visit!