|By I. M. H. Tyle||(Click links for images.)|
Manitoba has long been rumored to the be the home of the reptilian world's most elusive member, the snow snake! Thought to be circumpolar in distribution, the only other verified sightings of snow snakes (Serpentius niveus) come from halfway around the planet, in the Siberian outpost of Ophidiostok, near its renowned vodka distillery.
Early explorers to Manitoba left some anecdotal evidence in the form of crude drawings on birch bark suggesting the existence of the great white snakes. Some authors have denounced these images as mere doodles, or suggested instead that they represent wisps of smoke rising from camp fires. Cree legends also tell of slithering white beings with forked tongues, but, oddly, there are only pictures of early European explorers that accompany such tales.
More support emerged for the existence of snow snakes with reports from surveyors around the turn of the century, though these consist mainly of signs or tracks of the legendary critters. One account bears witness to long serpentine trails in the snow leading off into the bush from the back of the Inwood tavern. (Snow snakes are thought to frequent human habitations for food scraps.) Accounts of their presence from these times have an odd monthly periodicity, with most reports occurring around pay days.
But debate over the existence of these creatures may now be put to rest with the publication of this article and the first authentic pictures of snow snakes! On New Year's Day I encountered these amazing creatures in abundance, basking on the limbs of jack pine trees. Their numbers were quite astonishing, considering their proximity to civilization. Though they seemed to be slithering around the branches quite rapidly at times, I was able to get these shots using my telephoto lens through the back window of the beverage room at the West Hawk Tavern.
Though I was unable to convince local media to attend and cover this rare herpetological event, there are two signatures besides my own on a sworn affidavit attesting to the veracity of this report. It is my intention now to apply for federal funding to support a research project to determine the status of this heretofore unrecorded species. Plans are also in the works to develop "Snow Snake Land", on the grounds of the West Hawk Tavern, a theme park dedicated to this unique wildlife viewing opportunity.
Inquiries or reports of other corroborating evidence may be forwarded to me at the following address:
I. M. H. (Herb) Tyle
Room over the Vendor
West Hawk Tavern
West Hawk Lake, Manitoba
"Snow Snake Capitol of the World"
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