The Sunshine Coast is thought to be home to five snake species. In addition to three types of garter snakes, there are also thought to be two species at risk present.
The elusive Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis) is federally endangered and provincially red-listed. It is a flagship species for conservation of Coastal Douglas-Fir woodlands, and prefers sunny, south-facing openings in Douglas Fir - Arbutus forests. This species is tiny and delicate, less than 30 cm long. Juveniles are red, while adults are chestnut brown. These snakes have distinctive white and black stripes on their bellies and a pointed tip to their tail. Unlike garter snakes, which are frequently seen basking in the open in the sun, the shy Sharp-tailed Snake prefers to hide in warm spots underneath objects like rocks, logs or bark, and at first glance may be mistaken for an earthworm. Until recently, the Sharp-tailed Snake was primarily known from a very few sites on Vancouver Island. However, over the past few years, thanks to increased search effort and public awareness efforts, several new localities for the species have been revealed. The recent discovery of the species in Pemberton suggests a broader provincial range. Anecdotal reports from local naturalists suggest that the species may be present on the Sunshine Coast.
The Northern Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) is federally classified as a species of special concern. It is the only Canadian member of the Boa family (the same family that includes Anacondas and Boa Constrictors!). These snakes are tan, brown, or olive in colour and 35 to 80 cm long with a thick body resembling a rubbery tube. This gentle, docile species is often used to help people who are frightened of snakes overcome their fear. The nocturnal species is rarely seen; it spends substantial time hiding underground in rodent burrows and beneath rocky outcrops and woody debris. Prior to 2013, there had been no records of Rubber Boas from the mainland Sunshine Coast. However, in the past few years we have documented at least 6 occupied sites ranging from West Sechelt to Garden Bay.
How We Are Helping
To improve knowledge of the distribution of this species and ensure that habitats are conserved and managed appropriately, our biologists are undertaking surveys to assess habitat and identify sites occupied by Sharp-tailed Snakes. Surveys are carried out using environmentally sensitive hand searches as well as establishment of artificial cover objects (ACO) survey stations. Knowledge about distribution of Sharp-tailed Snakes will prevent inadvertent loss of unknown populations and will help prioritize sites for habitat protection, enhancement, and restoration.
You Can Help!
- If you think you have seen a Sharp-tailed Snake or Rubber Boa, please contact us.
- Improve habitat for snakes and help with monitoring efforts by installing and checking ACOs on your property
- Practice snake-friendly habitat practices on your property
- Snake-friendly Landscaping and Gardening
- Sharp-tailed Snake Identification Guide
- Video Showing how to Distinguish Sharp-tailed Snakes from Garter Snakes
- Status Report on the Sharp-tailed Snake in Canada
- Status Report on the Northern Rubber Boa in Canada