Watch this National Geographic video about the snakes that gather at the Narcisse Snake Dens in Manitoba, Canada, which is considered the largest gathering of snakes anywhere in the world.
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.
The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 students.
1 Adults are usually more afraid of the snakes than children.
2 Temperatures are scorching hot in the area.
3 During winter, snakes live very close to the surface.
4 It's very unusual in that part of Canada to see sinkholes with so many snakes.
5 Female snakes are bigger than male snakes.
6 Males fight among themselves to get a female.
7 There have been a few accidents with snakes at Narcisse.
8 In the past people tried to eradicate snakes.
People come from all over the world just to see the snake dens here.
A lot of children are a little more willing to hold the snakes and to interact with them. Sometimes the adults are a little more apprehensive which I think is kind of odd. That it’s almost like the fear of snakes has been built into people as they grow up.
I do not like snakes because they are a little unpredictable.
And.... Uh...yeah. I’m doing a terrible job pretending that I like snakes.
Here in the Inner Lake of Manitoba, Canada is the by far the largest aggregations or concentrations of snakes anywhere in the world.
The Inner Lake of Manitoba is so plentiful, or why snakes are so plentiful here really goes back to the geology of the area. Temperatures can reach 50 degrees below zero. And so a snake, being a cold-blooded animal, they have to be able to survive those winter temperatures. So that here in the Inner Lake region the limestone bedrock is very close to the surface. So that allows the cold and the water to crack and fissure the limestone, and it makes great big sinkholes. And that enables the snakes to get below the frost line during the winter.
There is a very limited number of these den sites. So all the snakes in the area have to go to that den site that’s in their region. And so that’s how you end up with literally tens of thousands of snakes being in a sinkhole that might be the size of the average person’s living room.
It is actually very difficult for the males to find a female because if you look from a snakes-eye-view, you just see kind of a sea of living spaghetti and you’re looking for a slightly bigger piece of spaghetti then all the rest them. They’ll detect the female sex pheromone. The males are very easily able to then go past all the other pieces of spaghetti, if you will, and home in on the female.
Often times when the group of these courting males all gather around one female trying to be that lucky guy that’s going to mate with her, they’ll get so wrapped up they can tumble down literally like a ball. So people call them mating balls.
Even though there is tremendous competition for mates, the males are not fighting with each other, they don’t have dominance hierarchies, they don’t have territories set up like other animals would do in a similar situation.
Let’s get a picture in front of the big snake, okay?
I like to call them the ambassadors of the reptile world. They’re a great way for people to interact with wildlife.
Look at mommy and smile!
The garter snakes don’t have teeth and they feel cool when you touch them and stuff.
So they don’t bite you. They just kind of move around in your hand really fast and stuff.
Awesome job, you guys.
Obviously all the snakes here are harmless. The dens here at Narcisse have been set up through Manitoba Conservation. And the boardwalks have been made and they’re regulated. So it is a nice place for people to come visit with minimal impact on the denning sites themselves.
Way back at the turn of the century and even through the 20s and 30s and 40s, people had a pretty bad attitude about snakes and tried to clear them out. Just times have changed a lot. I think people are much more environmentally- conscious.
Really and truly, having these healthy number of snakes means your living in a healthy environment.
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