The Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance provides a series of Living with Wildlife guides, including Snakes in British Columbia. The PDF guides are available for download and include information on identifying, managing and working with various species found on local vineyards and other agricultural properties.
In the South Okanagan, we have a number of snake species that can surprise you in the field. Snakes are often killed because we fear and do not understand them.
Farmers now recognize that snakes are valuable to agriculture for rodent control. Most snake species are now at risk and all are protected under the BC Wildlife Act.
According to OSCA, understanding snakes is the first step to appreciating them.
Watch for snakes basking on the road when driving vehicles, including tractors and ATVs — vehicles kill significant numbers of snakes each year.
It is against the law to harass or kill a native snake or keep it as a pet.
The old adage, “there’s nobody here but us chickens” just doesn’t apply at Anarchist Vineyard.
The family-owned winery on the Osoyoos community’s east bench deals routinely with rattlesnakes and coyotes on the property. Normally, the attitude is live and let live.
But when a pair of matting rattlers invaded the chicken coop, additional measures were determined.
“They’ve been rustled and moved along,” reported Terry Meyer Stone of the snake pair that decided the hay-stuffed coop was as good a place as any to get it on.
The pair were in the coop for a week and managed to kill one of the family chickens. The love nest also made for keeping the chickens out-of-doors, which brought another threat.
“I had to get the chickens back in the coop because we’ve also had coyotes coming through,” Terry explained.
“It’s dangerous out here, man,” she added with a laugh.
But although moving the snakes has become a routine occurrence, Terry had concerns about interrupting the love-making.
“My husband is actually good at moving them, but because we had two of them that were mating, I just didn’t know if we could move them while they were doing that or not,” she said.
Andrew and Terry have worked the vineyard since 2010. They bottle small lots of premium wines and identify as “artisan producers” who bring a “new perspective to the wine industry.”
Their attitude toward the rattlesnakes — and other endangered species — is reflected in their practices: the minimal use of sprays, no herbicides, sustainable farming practices like tilling and open canopies and promoting a balanced ecosystem.
Snake-wrangling is a skill Terry’s husband, Andrew Stone, has acquired along with the vineyard.
“He probably ends up moving snakes about half a dozen times a year,” Terry said. “We put up with them out in the vineyard, but if they’re near the house, we move them.”
The vineyard is located on Hwy. 3 east of Osoyoos. Sales are accomplished away from the snakes through a website: anarchistvineyard.com.