Construction work on a dike in Canada gave hundreds of slumbering snakes a bit of a rude awakening last week.
Workers unearthed a den of more than 500 garter snakes, hibernating under rocks in British Columbia. Although garter snakes are harmless, relocating that many of them presented a bit of a problem.
The snakes were delivered in buckets and bins to the Wildlife Rescue Association of British Columbia near Vancouver, which is storing them in tubs until temperatures rise outside.
“We get a few snakes in each year but this is just extraordinary. We’ve never seen anything like this before and we have never treated so many animals in a single day,” says Linda Bakker, Wildlife Rescue’s Team Leader of Wildlife Rehabilitation.
To survive the winter, the cold-blooded garter snakes hibernate together, sleeping for months on end with no need for food and only occasionally waking up for water.
The behavior, known as brumation, is especially common in parts of Canada, where the geology allows for sinkholes to develop, which present the perfect place for the snakes to hibernate.
The dike where the snakes were living – at Boundary Bay, near the border with Washington state – is being repaired, and once the work is finished, the rocks where the snakes were living will be replaced.
The Wildlife Rescue Association plans to return the snakes to the site in the spring.