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Snake Habitat Assessment

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Snake Habitat Assessment2016-12-13T10:35:58+00:00

Snake Habitat Assessment

Sharp-tailed Snake Habitat: Virtual Habitat Assessment


The Sharp-tailed Snake is a small endangered snake that has been found on Salt Spring, North and South Pender, Galiano and Vancouver Islands. Recently, new sites have been found on all these islands with the exception of Galiano Island. This suggests that there could be more unknown sites. Because we may not be aware of all the potential places to look that have suitable habitat, we encourage landowners to complete the Sharp-tailed Snake Virtual Habitat Assessment. Please let us know if your result suggest that you could have potential suitable habitat forthis snake on your property.

Why should you do the Virtual Habitat Assessment?

Sharp-tailed Snake are listed under the Species at Risk Act, which provides little or no protection on private lands. The protection of Sharp-tailed Snakes and other endangered species is up to the voluntary safeguards and good stewardship practices provided by private landowners like yourself.

The first step in protecting any species is to find out where it is. The elusive behavior of the Sharp-tailed Snake makes it difficult to find. Our current knowledge of the snake is largely due to the involvement of many landowners who participate in searching and monitoring for the snakes.

The Virtual Habitat Assessment

We have provided a series of steps that will give you some idea whether you might have Sharp-tailed Snake habitat on your land. Once that has been established we can help you find the species, which could result in the discovery of a new site.

Keep track of your score as you go through the clues below. If you score 6 or more, please contact the Salt Spring Island Conservancy or your local conservancy.

To find out whether your property is within the potential Sharp-tailed Snake habitat that was delineated in 2005 using air photos follow the steps below.

Access the Natural Area Atlas where this information is available.
Step 1: Go to or Click on
Step 2: Zoom in to your property by clicking and dragging the cursor over the area you live. Repeat this until you can see your property. You can zoom in or out on the map using the magnify  icons in the top left corner of the screen. This will allow you to view the nearest polygon to your property.

Step 3: Click on the layers_button button.

Step 4: Click on the Natural Areas folder to view subfolders natural_areas

Step 5: Click on the Terrestrial Species subfolder  terrestrial_species

Step 6: Click on the Potential Sharp-tailed Snake Habitat layer


If your property is within or close to one of the delineated polygons, there is an increased chance that you live in good Sharp-tailed Snake habitat. Because the Sharp-tailed Snake can live in very small habitat patches they are sometimes found in other areas that were not identified as potential Sharp-tailed Snake habitat.

  • Inside or within 200 m from a polygon = 1 point
Clue 2: Landscape context

The Sharp-tailed Snake has been found in forests with open canopy, but not in dense forests. Our current understanding of their dispersal potential is that they will only move distances within a few hundred meters, so it is important to look at the history and situation in which your property is situated. If the house site is a clearing in the middle of a larger stand of a mature Douglas-fir forest it is less likely that the Sharp-tailed Snake will occur here than if the house site is situated in a Garry oak or arbutus forest with natural openings and disperse canopy.

  • In areas with many openings = 1 point
Sharp-tailed Snakes need warm spots to lay their eggs, which generally means that they need south to south-westerly facing slopes. These, however, do not need to be large. The base of a crumbling snag or the side of a driveway will suffice. The home range of the snake might not be more than 30 meters in diameter, and only a portion of that needs to be exposed to the sun.

Choose one:

  • South or south-westerly aspect = 3 points
  • South-easterly aspect = 1 point
Sharp-tailed Snakes need the sun’s energy to incubate the eggs in the nest and, as a result, they are often found in particularly warm spots. Such spots can be in smaller openings in the forest or areas sheltered by a small ridge.

  • Small protected area(s) with lots of sun = 2 points
The Sharp-tailed Snake is a burrower, and spends most of its life underground. In order to move around it needs porous substrate such as loose soil, rocks, gravel, decayed woody debris, mulch, and leaf litter. The delineated polygons include areas with appropriate substrate.

  • Inside or within 200 m from a polygon = 2 points
Thanks for completing the Sharp-tailed Snake habitat Virtual Habitat Assessment.

What is next?

If your score was 6 or more, you likely have potential Sharp-tailed Snake habitat and we would be very interested in hearing from you. If you are interested in finding out more about the Sharp-tailed Snake, we can offer a consultation followed by an on-site assessmentat your convenience. If the site is deemed to have suitable habitat, we can set up artificial cover objects (ACOs) that are used to attract the Sharp-tailed Snake, so that we can learn more about them. As the snakes are usually found burrowing in woody debris or hiding under rocks and logs, searching for them can often lead to inadvertent destruction of habitat. To avoid this, we use ACOs in order to search for the snakes in a manner that does not disturb the natural habitat of the snakes.sharp_tailed_snake_image2

If you think you might have potential Sharp-tailed Snake habitat or if you think you have seen a Sharp-tailed Snake, please contact:

Salt Spring Island Conservancy offers Stewardship and outreach programs and can be contacted at:
Phone: 250-538-0318
Fax: 250-538-0319

If you live on other Southern Gulf Islands or on Southern Vancouver Island you can contact the following agencies and let them know that you think that you live in potential Sharp-tailed Snake habitat. The contact information follows:

Habitat Acquisition Trust:
Phone: 250-995-2428
Fax: 250-920-7975

Pender Island Conservancy Association:

Galiano Island Conservancy Association
Phone: 250-539-2424
Fax: 250-539-2424

Mayne Island Conservancy
Phone: 250-539-5168

Additional Links

You can find more information on the Sharp-tailed Snake at the following links.

To view or print the Sharp-tailed Snake Identification Guide, please go to the following link:

To view or print the Sharp-tailed Snake Wildlife At Risk brochure, please go to the following link:

To view the Reptiles of British Columbia Website, please go to the following link:

To view the Habitat Aquisition Trust’s brochures of Sharp-tailed Snakes in Our Backyard, please go to the following links:

To view the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team’s Sharp-tailed Snake Species At Risk page, please go to the following link:

To view the BC Conservation Data Centre’s Conservation Status Report for Sharp-tailed Snake, please go to the following link:

To view the Best Management Practices for Amphibians and Reptiles in Urban and Rural Environments in British Columbia, please go to the following link:

To view the Recovery Strategy for the Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis) in British Columbia, please go to the following link:

To view the Natural History of the Sharp-Tailed Snake, Contia tenuis, on the Gulf Islands, British Columbia, please go to the following link:

To view the brochure for Attracting Snakes into your Backyard – tips for reptile-friendly landscaping and gardening, please go to the following link: