Salt Spring Island is home to six species of reptiles, including one kind of lizard, four kinds of snakes, and one kind of turtle. Also, two sea turtle species have occasionally been sighted in nearby waters.
Salt Spring reptiles are not active in winter, as they cannot maintain a warm body temperature year round. In summer they regulate body temperature by adjusting their exposure to the sun, therefore important habitat components are sun-basking areas and shaded covers.
Reptiles are important to the ecology of the island and are garden-friendly in that they consume destructive invertebrates such as invasive insects, slugs and worms. Reptiles in turn serve as prey for hawks and other native birds.
Three of our reptiles are classified as endangered, that is facing imminent extirpation or extinction. These are the Sharp-tailed Snake, the Western Painted Turtle, and the Leatherback Sea Turtle. These animals lay eggs, a factor that may contribute to their vulnerability. More information on Salt Spring Species at Risk
Land-owners can help conserve native reptiles through habitat protection and habitat improvement. Several suggestions are provided below:
- Protect natural rock outcrops, rocky crevices, rock piles, logs, stumps, and down wood, all of which are important reptile habitat.
- Conserve natural areas and native plants including meadows and forest.
- Avoid mowing and weed-eating native grasses and preserve native shrubs.
- Protect streams, ponds, tide pools, and foreshore, including waterside vegetation.
- Provide rock piles, boards, and other shelter devices.
- Provide waterside basking logs or boards.
- Avoid disturbing known reptile nest sites and hibernation dens.
- Prevent domestic cats, which prey upon reptiles, from roaming outside.
- Avoid chemical slug poisons as they may harm reptiles.
Do not handle or otherwise capture reptiles to avoid stressing them and disrupting their activities. It is illegal to handle or possess wildlife and their eggs without a license or permit.
Please report sightings of endangered reptiles to the Salt Spring Island Conservancy.