Photo: Scott Sutton
A West Kelowna man had a rare encounter in his backyard on Sunday.
Scott Sutton has lived on Lakeview Cove Road in West Kelowna since 2013, but this is the first time he’s ever had a snake slither through his property.
“This was in my backyard on Sunday. Be great to let people know warmer weather brings out more than just the sun,” Sutton told Castanet.
Wildlife biologist Michael Dunn of Big Picture Biology tells Castanet that this is a special sight that should be celebrated.
“It’s definitely a rattlesnake and it’s a nice healthy guy or girl,” says Dunn.
Western rattlesnakes are considered a species at risk in British Columbia and according to the BC Ministry of Environment, “needless killing and habitat loss to expanding towns and intensive agriculture have put this species at risk.”
In fact, in BC the western rattlesnake is protected from capture or killing under the Wildlife Act.
Dunn says he understands why some property owners might get confused when they see a rattlesnake at this time of year, but he says they are typically not a threat.
“This is when snakes are starting to disperse from their hibernacula (a shelter occupied during the winter by a dormant snake), so there’s not necessarily an attractant in the yard,” said Dunn.
Snakes will be on the move for the next couple of weeks, but by the end of May or early June, they will have reached their summer destinations.
“The best way to deal with them on your property is to understand that this is likely going to be a one-off experience. So what I would recommend as soon as you are aware, on your property, number one, just make sure where you’re stepping. Then take a moment to just enjoy the snake, recognize that this is a rare species sighting,” Dunn says.
By nature, rattlesnakes keep to themselves and won’t become aggressive unless chased or cornered.
“They are shy creatures which normally seek cover when approached and usually give people a warning… it’s a species that has developed an evolutionary tactic of having a rattle on its tail, which alerts people or animals to its presence,” says Dunn.
While Dunn says you should take the opportunity to enjoy a rattlesnake encounter, it is important to give them a wide berth — two meters and keep children and pets away.
“Dogs can be unpredictable. Cats are well known snake killers. So be aware and make sure you don’t cut off their escape, they are afraid of you and they will want to get away.”
The only time it is acceptable to move or harm a rattlesnake in BC is if they are a direct threat to you or your family. Ask a professional to move the snake—contact your local bylaw or animal control office or phone the BC Conservation Officer Reporting Line: 1-877-952-7277.