Last fall, in the course of carrying out pre-construction environmental surveys, the Expansion Project’s environmental team located three snake dens in the Lac Du Bois grasslands just outside of Kamloops, British Columbia. The species of snakes found are designated under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act, which requires specific plans detailing mitigation measures. Following the Project’s environmental protection and management plans, 127 Western Yellow-Bellied Racers, Great Basin Gophersnakes and Western Rattlesnakes were captured and relocated.

Western Rattlesnake sun basking at den entrance during fall denning ingress period.
Remnants of Gophersnake egg clutch from hand excavation.

Thirty-five of the snakes were relocated back into a natural den with similar habitat characteristics. When winter hit, it became too cold to continue releasing the snakes back to the local area – snakes and other reptiles are cold-blooded, and regulate their body temperature by thermal radiation absorption. Snakes do not fully hibernate and enter a state of inactivity or torpor during winter or extended periods of low temperatures. This lethargic period is known as brumation and means the snakes would be less likely to survive relocation to another den structure.

Western Rattlesnake and Gophersnake in translocation container.

In alignment with a request from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, the remaining 92 Great Basin Gophersnakes and Western Bellied Racers were transported to the BC Wildlife Park for temporary captive care.

The BC Wildlife Park is a non-profit organization dedicated to rehabilitating orphaned and injured wildlife, and is home to nearly 65 different species native to British Columbia, including cougars, bears, wolves, birds of prey and reptiles. Trans Mountain has provided a donation to support its efforts of conservation, education and rehabilitation.

Our environmental team continues to work with government authorities on a snake release, habitat reconstruction and monitoring plan. They will use materials salvaged and retained from the dens to reconstruct the snake habitat during the Expansion Project’s reclamation phase.

The snakes are set to be released this spring.