Pemberton’s snake–charming side, revealed

First, you need to know that snakes are NOT slimy. Second, they like Pemberton. We checked in with sometime–herpetologist, rest–of–the–time–ski writer, Leslie Anthony, to find out more about his attention–getting find of a rare sharp–tailed snake in Pemberton a few weeks ago.

What’s a reformed herpetologist doing creeping around Pemberton, anyway?

I was looking for Rubber Boas and Alligator Lizards to display for BioBlitz in Whistler: kids love critters and every year I catch some snakes and lizards for naturalist Bob Brett’s event.

What’s so special about this snake you found?

a) The Sharp-tailed Snake has never been confirmed as existing on British Columbia mainland; at the moment it is known only from a handful of sites on the gulf islands of Pender, Saltspring, Galiano and the extreme southern tip of Vancouver Island. Because these populations are small and isolated, they are vulnerable to extinction from human disturbance, natural catastrophes and chance events. The rarity of these snakes, combined with the loss and fragmentation of their forest habitats, raises concerns about the persistence of the species in B.C.

b) The species has been designated as highly endangered in B.C.
c) Its distribution north of California/southern Oregon is very scattered and localized, in part because it is very hard to find. Most finds are like mine—accidental.
Can you tell me a bit more about it, generally?

It eats slugs. It is highly secretive and likely nocturnal. It lives where slugs live — in the netherworld between forest debris and the ground. I ripped a piece of bark off a rotted log and there it was. For a few seconds I thought it was a baby Rubber Boa — which can be a similar pinkish colour — but then I realized it was too thin and too long. As soon as I picked it up I knew what it was (because I’m a swashbuckling herpetologist who knows all the Canadian fauna—even if only from a book) because of the sharp spike on the end of its tail that it immediately pushed into my hand. It doesn’t hurt, it’s just an anchor-like thing.

Aren’t snakes generally nasty, dangerous, scary things?

No. Unless you live in Australia.

Why do you think this snake chose Pemberton? (Nice climate? Quality people?)

Lower taxes. Milder climate. Smaller slugs.

If it’s the only one, doesn’t that mean it’s destined to die a sad lonely death, unless we hook it up asap with some kind of lavalife online dating prospects?

It can’t be the only one. It’s a healthy adult so there is clearly a breeding population in the area. The Provincial Recovery Team will eventually assess the population at this locality.

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  1. […] in Pemberton, we like snakes. Well, they like us. The sharp-tailed snake was found by herpetologist Leslie Anthony in Pemberton in August 2011 – […]

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