HAT has partnered with the federal Habitat Stewardship Program since 2005 to provide landowner contact services where Species-at-Risk may live. We've been meeting with private landowners from Metchosin to Galiano helping to develop knowledge of the distribution and habits of our rarest snake species.
The Sharp-tailed Snake is a tiny, secretive creature - he'd rather spend his time warming up under a rock than moving around where biologists can spot him. Only about 30 cm long, adult Sharp-tailed Snakes don't bask out in the open; they seek warm spots under rocks, logs or pieces of bark, and human objects such as roofing shingles. The small size and secretive nature makes them difficult to study. "We really don't know very much about them," says Christian Englestoft, the scientific advisor to the Sharp-tailed Snake Recovery Team. "Thanks to landowners that have helped us study the snake we know when they're active. Other aspects of the snake's biology, such as daily and seasonal movement patterns, critical habitat, diet, egg laying, time of hatching are all topics we still need to learn more about."
Sharp-tailed Snakes are usually found on south-facing rocky slopes of Garry oak and drier Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems, habitats that are themselves threatened. As more and more people move to this region, Sharp-Tailed Snake habitat is threatened by development. Cars, cats, pesticides, weed-eaters, and loss of sunny micro-habitats also threaten these rare snakes.
The good news is that Sharpies and humans can co-exist, if landowners take a few simple precautions. These include leaving natural covers and hiding places, controlling invasive plants, providing a pesticide-free environment, and protecting south-facing slopes. Because there are no legal requirements to protect endangered species on private lands, voluntary stewardship by landowners is critical for habitat protection.
Do your own Virtual Habitat Assessment (Salt Spring Island Conservancy) to see if your property has potential habitat for Sharpies.
With funding from Environment Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program, we are meeting with landowners who are interested in protecting our region's unique natural heritage.