Narcisse is an amazing mass of slithering Red-sided Garter Snakes every spring. It is the largest concentration of snakes in the world! Narcisse has become an international attraction and research site for scientists studying snakes. The 11,880-hectare WMA protects the hibernacula or winter dens for the snakes.
On warm days in early May, the snakes emerge from their dens and begin the courting rituals. As a female surfaces, a group of males will swarm around her, forming a mating ball. You can identify the female as the larger snake that seems to be leading the group. Once mating occurs, the females leave the dens and travel up to 20 kilometres to their summer hunting grounds, where they give birth to live young. Males may remain for a month or two before they too leave for the summer. By mid-June most of the snakes have dispersed from the dens. When the evenings start to cool at the end of August, the snakes make their way back to the dens. By September they have congregated again. You can see them at the den entrances, basking in the sun on warm fall days. As the temperatures drop the snakes move underground, down into the dark caverns carved in the limestone bedrock, where they will safely wait out the frigid winter.
You can visit Narcisse any time of year, but spring and fall are the best time to see the snakes. There is a trail system to take you around to the dens, where there are viewing platforms and interpretive signs to tell you more about the Red-sided Garter Snake. While out on the trail watch for white-tailed deer and the occasional elk, fox or coyote. You might also see Sharp-tailed Grouse, colourful Baltimore Orioles, and hear the songs of Cape May, Connecticut and Orange-crowned Warblers.
There are five dens so be sure to walk around the complete trail where you will see interpretive signs at each den. You will find some dens are more active than others.
Red-sided Garter Snakes, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Baltimore Oriole, Cape May Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler
parking lot – 50°44’04N and 97°31’50W
Garter Snakes are not venomous but they will bite if harassed. It is illegal to harass or remove any snakes. Dogs must be kept on a leash or left in the car.
No entrance fee