By Nick Cairns, Sam Jaques and Graham Rothwell

Winter was long and summer has yet to make its full presence known in the southwestern portion of the province, which has waylaid snake catching this year. Attempts at observing early season snakes were disturbingly unproductive. In early May, even at known and previously productive hibernacula, I was only able to find the tails of several eastern yellow-bellied racers (Coluber constrictor flaviventris) eaten by an unknown predator.

Yellow-bellied Racer
My remote camera had better luck capturing one of these rare, charismatic and apparently delicious snakes.

As the rainy, cool spring wore on, even the ubiquitous but gorgeous plains garter snakes (Thamnophis radix) eluded me with the exception of brief flashes of orange in the snowberry. However two days ago while scouting sites for an upcoming RSM inventory of inverts, small mammals and herptiles, I came across this beautiful sight:

Plains Garter Snake
A large male T. radix thermoregulating after a meal, surely a sign of better things to come. 

Yesterday morning the forecast said thunderstorms but the sky said “get out and look”.  My wife Krista and I headed out to an area that has previously been productive for others researchers. Our intention was look for racers and bullsnakes (Pituophis catenifer sayi) for a RSM tracking project. After about 2.5 hours of lovely vistas and no snakes, ominous clouds both literal and figurative began to set in. We decided that we would hike across a valley and then call it a morning. I took the low riparian route looking for racers while Krista took the high road along an arid slope. One wood tick into my walk, a cry of “hey a snake!!!” wafted across the coulee. A quick hustle up the hill brought me face to face with what we were looking for: an absolutely stunning 1.5 m long bullsnake. 

Bullsnake        Bullsnake
Bullsnake