Guest Feature: The Snake Tree

The Snake Tree, by Alexis Grange

Deep Roots Farm, Yellow Point, Vancouver Island

Garter Snakes Alexis GrangeThe full moon is due at midnight. That afternoon, GoldenRose, my friend Noël and I are bent over an onion bed, harvesting and chatting with each other. All of a sudden Goldie breaks the conversation. “Look at the snakes! There are two, oh three gardener snakes!” she says, all excited.

We turn around and rush to the fence where we see two snakes disappearing into the bush.

“Have you guys ever seen so many snakes on the farm?” Goldie asks with a mischievous smile. About to reply, we raise our heads and see another long, black, yellow and red body slithering around a branch of the plum tree in front of us.

“Look, there is one in the tree!” shouts Goldie. “And two! Three! And another on the blackberry bush! And one on the ground coming out the onion bed!” we call out, as we spot more and more. We count as many as ten snakes at the same time.

“Wow, this one has a frog in its mouth!” Noël cries out, impressed by the scene. We look down to see the body and legs of a Pacific tree frog in the process of being swallowed by the tiny head of the snake. I reach for my camera and click a few pictures. They seem clear, and I’m excited to have recorded this unusual phenomenon.

garter snake eating frog Alexis Grange“This is the first time I’ve seen so many snakes at one time in my life!” says Goldie, although she has worked on her farm for two years. I squat down to take more pictures, looking carefully around to make sure that I’m not stepping on a snake, or that one doesn’t fall on my head and try to eat me. I haven’t seen many snakes in my life in France, and they still feel dangerous. A minute has passed, and we are feeling incredulous, our minds trying to analyse the weird happening. “What’s going on?” we ask each other.  “They are not even afraid of us, they are crawling right beside us”, Noël observed.

“I think they are hunting!” says Noël, sounding quite sure of himself. Goldie has no idea. “I hope this is not a bad thing for my garden”, she says with concern.

“It looks like a snake invasion. There are dozens of them!” I continue, “I wonder when they are going to stop showing up?”

Not sure about any of our theories, and feeling overwhelmed by the mystery, we stay there observing, like a good audience. They effortlessly glide on the leaves of the bush like a bird flies in the sky. Most are going round and up and down, like dancers in a small ballet. Soon we understand that the same snakes are appearing at different spots. They disappear inside the bush and reappear sliding up and around the vertical branches of the plum tree. After five minutes Goldie and Noël go back to work while I stay watching, mesmerized by the scene. I‘m feeling that something unique, much bigger than us, is unfolding before our eyes and I don’t want to lose a crumb of it. I’m an observer, but at the same time I feel like touching one. I reach for the tail of a snake passing unworried on the ground, but at the moment of catching it my arm softened and failed to grasp it. The thrill of trying to catch one makes my heart pulse faster, fear and excitement starting to slither inside me like a spicy venom.

Garter Snakes in Bushes Alexis Grange

“They can’t bite you”, Goldie had assured me earlier, but my mind is stronger than my will and I’m afraid of grasping it.

I go back to the vegetable beds to finish my shift, volunteering one more hour in the garden. My mind gets obsessed with the snake gathering, and the idea of catching one. After I finish working I stop at the plum tree on my way to the house. They are still here; I’m standing shaking in front of the spectacle. I watch for five minutes and then do a quick search on my Smartphone with the words “gardener snake gathering”.

The research shows me that it is usual for Common Garter snakes to gather in some places where they will hide for the winter; they usually sleep together in cracks in the bedrock. I find a video of the “Narcisse snake pit gathering” in Manitoba, the biggest in the world, with tens of thousands of them. The video shows children playing with the snakes. I feel like an idiot. If children can do it so can I!

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Cyclists Aim to Ride 50km for bats in Big Bat Bike Ride - dressed as bats!

Big Bat Bike Ride Poster 2017As Halloween approaches, local cyclists keen on our furry night-flying insect controllers are planning the Big Bat Bike Ride for October 29 dressed as bats. The goal is to raise awareness and funds about the plight of our bats and to collect pledges to adopt local bat colonies through the HAT for Bats Campaign.

Paige Erickson-McGee and Alanah Nasadyk are leading the Batty Bike Crew in costume on the 50 kilometre bike ride from Centennial Square to MyChosen Café in Metchosin, departing at 11:00am. Everyone is welcome to join, bat costumes are encouraged but optional. There is a 4 km pup ride from the Square along the Galloping Goose Trail to the Selkirk Trestle for those smaller riders, or join for all or part of the full 50 km ride to Metchosin and back.

“Who isn’t a little intrigued by bats? Our local bat populations are in trouble and they need our help. We can all make a difference to bats, and we hope to raise $1,000.00 for the HAT for Bats Campaign and spread the word about how important our bats are to us. They eat all those mosquitoes eating us! An important natural pest control” says Paige Erickson-McGee, co-leader of the Big Bat Bike Ride.

The funds raised will go towards the HAT for Bats Campaign, with the goal to raise at least $1,000.00 to protect local bat colonies at risk of being removed or destroyed.

Habitat Acquisition Trust is reaching out to the community with this campaign to continue its important work with local bats. You can support the HAT for Bats fundraiser by sponsoring a bat colony for $100.00, which covers the cost of building a bat house that can support up to 200 bats.

Community members can also team up with HAT to fundraise by collecting donations from their friends and neighbours, hosting their own mini-fundraiser event, or create a donation box to be carried during trick-or-treating.

Why do bats need homes? It can be tricky finding a safe place to live nowadays if you’re a bat. Habitat loss and loss of old dead trees due to development and deforestation have reduced bats’ options for finding suitable homes.

Three out of the ten bat species found on Vancouver Island are considered at risk of eventually being lost forever if they remain on their current trajectory. Habitat Acquisition Trust’s (HAT) Bat Stewardship Program helps people on South Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands care for bats by providing bats with the habitat they need. Through the Bat Program HAT has collaborated with community members to install 90 bat boxes to provide safe bat habitat in our region.

Photo 1 Alanah and PaigeWhy are bats taking shelter in human-built structures? The primary reason is a loss of natural roosting habitat in the form of large old hollow trees. Many of these trees are removed during development or cleared in parks as a safety precaution to avoid injury by falling trees.

In the winter, local bats have been reported to hibernate in caves or abandoned mines, at specific locations on Southern Vancouver Island are unknown.

The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) was emergency listed as Endangered on the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2014 because of sudden and dramatic declines across the eastern portions of the ranges.

These declines are the direct result of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in eastern North America during their winter hibernation. It is currently not known to exist in bat colonies west of the Rockies, but detected in Washington State and expected to arrive in BC imminently.

Residents from Southern Vancouver Island are urged to contact Habitat Acquisition Trust at the BC Community Bat Program Hotline: 1-855-9BC-BATS ext 12 if bats are seen hibernating this winter.

“Programs like this have been in place to collect information from the public on bat populations in BC with the intention of aiding in the conservation of bats and their habitats” says Mandy Kellner, Coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program. “Reports from citizen scientists about bat hibernacula are extremely important for bat conservation in the province.”

Map of the ride route is available on the Facebook page. For more information or to support the Big Bat Bike Ride visit hat.bc.ca/bats or call HAT directly: 250-995-2428 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For info about bat box building or bats in houses, visit www.bcbats.ca

Find the event on Facebook: Big Bat Bike Ride
Sponsor the riders on their own page: Big Bat Bike Ride Fundraiser

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Elizabeth Easton Board Biography

Elizabeth EastonElizabeth Easton;

Director

Elizabeth holds a BA in Physical Geography from the University of Victoria with a focus on resource management and a strong interest in environmental systems and processes. She has spent over 25 years with the "dirt" ministries of the BC government (Forests, Parks and Environment) in program and administration and management. In her spare time she is a keen organizer of the annual Botany BC conference, has spent time with salmon enhancement programs on Vancouver Island and worked on early mapping and land use planning for Bowker Creek. Having grown up in the Victoria area she is enthusiastic to work with HAT and partners to stay involved in the management and conservation of the precious lands and habitats of southern Vancouver Island and the southern gulf islands.

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Conservation Connection Benefit Banquet Silent Auction Items

earth light studio avalanche liliesTicket sales are extended while space remains for the Thurs, Oct 12th Conservation Connection Forum & Benefit Banquet

Get your tickets before they sell out! Here.

More event info here.

There will be a silent auction and raffle with all funds raised going to Habitat Acquisition Trust's nature conservation programs. Raffle tickets are $2 each, so bring your cash to take part in the fun.

Silent auction items:

Raffle prizes:

Thank you to all of our sponsors that donated in support of the Conservation Connection Forum & Benefit Banquet!

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Conservation Connection Forum & Benefit Banquet Speakers Teaser


Conservation Connection Plain LogoThe Conservation Connection Forum and Benefit Banquet will be held Thurs, Oct 12th at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific Couvelier Pavillion (505 Quayle Rd). 

Tickets on sale at hat.bc.ca/c4c while space remains, until Oct 1st. 

Follow our Facebook Page for silent auction and event teasers leading up to the day of the conference!

Conservation Connection Forum Topics

hcpCollaborative, large-scale Conservation
First session: “why large scale conservation?” Highlighting experts representing different taxonomic groups (birds, pollinators, carnivores, forests/fungi)

Second session: “collaborative approaches to conservation” effective partnerships that are working together on collaborative conservation initiatives (stewardship, education, and restoration)

Third Session: “conservation planning tools”. Discussions on how to identify priorities and focus efforts in large scale conservation. (mapping tools, data sharing, identifying priorities and effective collaboration)
Fourth Session: Facilitated group discussion. Sharing of goals, priorities and conservation planning.

the weeding unearthed live hatchlings possibly unable to dig out of nest in dry spring soilNature Walk and Talk

Western Painted Turtle and Bat Conservation. Featuring the habitat steward done for these species on the Horticulcutre Centre of the Pacific's property. Led by HAT Biologist Christian Engelstoft.

Speakers

Dr. Lora Morandin: bees and pollinator conservation and citizen science
Dr. Kem Luther: the importance of mosses, fungi, lichens (The Boundary Layer)
Nitya Harris:
collaborative stewardship and the Coexisting with Carnivores Alliance
Jacques Sirois: outreach and education on Marine Bird Sanctuaries and modern-day Naturehoods
Pippi Lawn: community restoration and Coastal Sands Ecosystems in the Gulf Islands
Dr. Stephanie Hazlitt: approaches to Open Science, Data sharing and conservation planning tools
Jens Wieting: old growth forest protection, First Nations support and prosperous communities

Benefit Banquet Keynote Speaker

Dr. Rick Kool:
The Blue Boundary Report: developing a collaborative plan for the sustainability of Vancouver Island

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