By ROY WOOD
The desert night snake is so rare in Canada that there have been only about 20 sightings, all in the southern Okanagan and Similkameen valleys.
The little critter, which looks similar to a young rattlesnake, is one of the rare and endangered species that are part of the raison d’être of the Osoyoos Desert Society and the Desert Centre it operates.
Society executive director Denise Eastlick mentioned the desert night snake Monday in her annual report to the town council’s committee of the whole meeting.
Her report summarized the highlights of last season, outlined plans for this year and beyond and made the annual plea for town funding.
She described the town as “one of our most vital supporters.” The annual grant of $15,000 has helped provide funding for day-to-day operations of the centre. She asked that the town make the same grant this year.
Last year the Desert Centre partnered with the local photography club for its opening day and attracted a crowd of 168, more than double the previous high for the first walk of the year.
Despite the smoke that blanketed much of the valley in August, Eastlick described the season total of 7,500 visitors as “a really good season.” It included a four-part winter series in February and March looking at various aspects of desert habitat.
The society completed a four-year study examining the effects of a mixed-seed planting of native grasses between rows of vines in vineyards. The aim of such planting is to reduce erosion for the grape growers and to provide habitat for wildlife species.
A report has been completed for the study sponsor, the Real Estate Foundation of BC. Next will be a scientific study and a determination of next steps, said Eastlick.
Physical enhancements to the Desert Centre facility included:
- New entrance and interpretive signs;
- Construction of a viewing deck for the butterfly habitat area;
- Sanding and refinishing of the two large kiosks; and
- Expansion of the entry plaza.
For this year, said Eastlick, a four-part winter series will again kick off the season on February 20.
Planned enhancements for the facility over the year include a new bluebird habitat viewing deck; refinishing of the two smaller kiosks; some control of invasive weed species and a new sign for the town garden.
Planning is going on now for an event to celebrate this year’s 25th anniversary of the society’s incorporation. Eastlick said the event would likely occur in April, rather than on the actual March 4 anniversary, in the hopes that more people will have returned from winter vacations.
Among the longer-term plans for the society, she said, is a new interpretive building to replace the current trailers. Planning has not proceeded beyond a rough artist’s conception, although Eastlick told council members that the society would seek town support for the project.