Witness 70,000 Snakes in One Place! Here’s How You Can

group of garter snakes in den
© Jukka Palm/Shutterstock.com

Written by Cindy Rasmussen

Updated: July 31, 2023

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Is there a convention for snake lovers coming up? Maybe a conference for herpetologists? When hearing about the largest gathering of snakes, you could either squirm in your seat or be dying to know where it is. It is not on a remote exotic island or deep in the Amazon Jungle; the largest gathering of snakes is in Manitoba, Canada, in a wildlife area in Narcisse, to be exact. Every spring, thousands of snakes come out of brumation, and in a “Snake Spring Break,” begin a 10-day mating season. Let’s find out all about this largest gathering of snakes!

Where is Narcisse, Manitoba, Canada?

Narcisse Snake Dens Entry Sign


Manitoba is a province of Canada that is just north of Minnesota and North Dakota. Winnipeg is the capital of Manitoba, and Narcisse is an hour and twenty minutes north of Winnipeg. It is a very small town, nearly a ghost town, but every spring, people come from all over to view the snake dens.

What kind of snakes are at the park?

Garden Snake or Garter Snake

Red-sided garter snakes get to be about 18 inches long. The females are larger and thicker than the males.

©Alexander Gold/Shutterstock.com

The snakes are red-sided garter snakes, smaller snakes that can grow to be about 18 inches long. The males are smaller, usually about as thick as a finger, while the females are longer and thicker. They are black snakes with thin yellowish stripes going down the length of their bodies. Flecks of red are mixed in with the stripes, and their undersides are a cream color.

How many snakes are at the park?

There are 70,000 red-sided garter snakes at the Narcisse Snake Dens. That is more snakes than people in the town! There are four main dens that the snakes can be observed at, with some being more active than others.

Why are there so many snakes in one place?

The geography of the Narcisse Snake Dens is what makes this area so unique. The limestone rock is close to the surface and provides many sinkholes for snakes to congregate. The sinkholes are low enough, below the frost line, that snakes can brumate (similar to hibernation) in the winter and survive. During brumation, the snakes remain awake but they lower their metabolism to use fewer calories and to maintain their temperature.

The overall area that contains these sinkholes is limited, so thousands of snakes cram into the same few dens to make it through the winter. In the spring they stay put for mating and then disperse throughout the park during the warmer summer months. The Narcisse Wildlife Management Area works to protect this population of snakes.

When does the mating season for the snakes begin?

group of garter snakes in den

Thousands of snakes gather at the Narcisse Snake Dens in Narcisse, Manitoba, Canada.

©Jukka Palm/Shutterstock.com

The mating season is every spring, usually sometime between the last two weeks of April and the first two weeks of May. Mother’s Day weekend is one of the most popular times for visitors at the park. The website maintains updates based on the spring temperatures so people can plan ahead for the upcoming season. This year, 2022, the website says that we are experiencing a late spring with an estimate of Mid-May for good snake viewing. You can check the status here. Once they emerge, the season usually lasts about ten days.

What does the snake den look like?

Narcisse Mating Dens

A picture of the Narcisse Snake Dens, the ground is almost entirely covered in snakes mating!


You can stand on a bridge overlooking one of the snake dens and see thousands of snakes crawling all over each other like a moving carpet of black ropes. The Indian Jones reference has to be used here because it is just like the scene with the snake-covered floor. Sometimes they will get so involved that a mass of snakes will form a ball and roll down the edge of the den. Others form groups in the branches of low trees, wrapping themselves around the tree branches, with the occasional snake dropping after being bullied away from one of the females.

How do red-sided garter snakes mate?

The mating ritual is similar to other garter snakes. The odds are not in the male’s favor. Some years there may be as many as 100 males for every female, so the competition is stiff. When the snakes emerge from brumation, the males emerge first, and the females follow days to a week or two later. The females emit a sex pheromone that alerts the males that she is ready. Multiple males then try to mate with the same female and often form “mating balls” as they struggle to be the first one to mate. More than one male can share his sperm with a female, and once mating is done, the female stops emitting pheromones. The females can store the sperm inside their bodies until they are ready to fertilize the eggs.

How many babies do snakes have?

The female snake gives birth in the summer to as many as 40 live babies. The babies look very similar to the adult versions, only smaller, and they are completely independent.

How many people come to visit the Narcisse Snake Dens?

Some years there have been as many as 15,000 visitors. It is a popular place for photographers, and videographers, and is sometimes used in TV and movie productions.

Can you hold a snake?

garter snake hissing

One of the missions of the Narcisse Wildlife Management Area group is to teach children to have a positive relationship with snakes.


Yes! Many school groups visit the site, and the park staff encourages children to hold the snakes to give them an opportunity to develop a positive experience with snakes. Adults are encouraged to handle the snakes as well. Snakes are not slimy, but one woman described them as holding a moving jump rope.

Are the snakes dangerous?

No. The red-sided garter snake is a docile animal that doesn’t seem to be bothered by being handled. The mob of snakes will not turn on you and chase you down! Even if you walked through the den, it would be unlikely that you would get bitten or attacked. Garter snakes can bite, but they do not have fangs like rattlesnakes, so it feels more like a nibble.

Rattlesnake Inside Mouth

Rattlesnakes like this one have fangs for biting and delivering venom. Garter snakes do not have fangs and are not venomous.


What do I need to know if I am planning a visit to the Narcisse Snake Dens?

First, check the website to time your trip when the mating season is active. The park is not very large but does have onsite parking and trails. There are bathroom facilities and a few picnic tables but you will want to bring in your own food and drink if you plan to stay for an afternoon. Maybe you want to check with your mom to see if she would enjoy a day at the largest gathering of snakes as a Mother’s Day outing (I know my mom would give a hard pass!).

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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