Polar Bears aren’t the only species that migrate to Manitoba in huge numbers! In fact, snakes are more plentiful in the far northern province of Canada. And, most of those snakes gather in a space about the size of your living room…roughly 75,000 to be more precise!
Paul Colangelo, a National Geographic grantee, recently spent time photographing the largest snake gathering in the world in the Narcisse Snake Dens of Manitoba found in southern Manitoba.
Every spring thousands of red – sided garter snakes amass inside the unique limestone caves of the region and form “mating balls” consisting of hundreds of male snakes attempting to mate with a sole female. The female twists and moves desperately to escape the pit and thus creating these balls of motion rolling on the ground around the area. The female “is desperately trying to get out of the pit,” states Colangelo, an environmental documentary photographer.
The cluster of slithery bodies seems a “frenzy, but a closer look reveals a much finer dance,” Colangelo said in his field notes. “The small males court the larger female by rubbing her head with their chins and maintaining as much contact between their long bodies as possible.”
Interacting and photographing these oft – feared reptiles brings awareness to the species and assists in fostering more appreciation for the fascinating snakes. Colangelo even goes as far as describing the snakes as “cute”. They have “puppy-dog eyes—they just don’t blink,” he quipped.