A Manitoba garter snake researcher says he is sᴀᴅ, ᴅɪsɢᴜsᴛᴇᴅ and perplexed after finding dozens of garter snakes ʙᴜᴛᴄʜᴇʀᴇᴅ and ʙᴇᴀᴛᴇɴ near one of their wintering dens.
Neil Balchan is studying garter snakes in their natural habitat. His honours thesis is on the movement behavior and the usage of climatic cues among garter snakes.
To complete his project, Balchan visits a secluded area in a section of Manitoba known as the Interlake — in between Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg — three times a week. On Thursday, Balchan visited the snakes only to find more than 50 of them had been ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ.
“It looked like somebody had come by and purposefully ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ them. Some had their heads ᴄᴜᴛ ᴏꜰꜰ … and some were just ʙᴇᴀᴛᴇɴ to ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ with rocks or sᴛᴇᴘᴘᴇᴅ ᴏɴ — many of the bodies were ᴍᴀɴɢʟᴇᴅ or sᴍᴀsʜᴇᴅ,” said Neil Balchan. “It was a bit of a mess. There were Dᴇᴀᴅ snakes everywhere. It was ᴛᴇʀʀɪʙʟᴇ.”
Balchan believes the sʟᴀᴜɢʜᴛᴇʀ happened an hour or two before he arrived, because “many of the animals were still sᴛʀᴜɢɢʟɪɴɢ.” His first reaction was sᴀᴅness. “I was a little bit disgusted,” he said. “But I think I’m just bothered and perplexed.”
The garter is a harmless small snake species that typically grows to less than a metre long. Many people who visit the Narcisse pits pick the snakes up.
“They don’t mean to ʜᴜʀᴛ anyone, they don’t mean to sᴄᴀʀᴇ anyone. They’re just trying to get by,” Balchan said. “There’s seven months of brutal cold coming up right away and these animals have been packing on weight all summer. They eat insects, frogs, worms, and they’re really an important part of this ecosystem. So it really is a shame to see people do something like this out of ignorance or fear or whatever.”
He gathered up several of the Dᴇᴀᴅ snakes and took a photo to post to Facebook, where he vented about his disappointment and about losing “a little more faith in humanity.”