Rare snakes found in Pemberton 

Proposed Pemberton development area home to snakes on federal list of species at risk

click to flip through (3) PHOTO BY LESLIE ANTHONY - Snakes on a Ridge Red-listed sharp-tailed snakes have been discovered on Mackenzie Ridge in Pemberton.
  • Photo by Leslie Anthony
  • Snakes on a Ridge Red-listed sharp-tailed snakes have been discovered on Mackenzie Ridge in Pemberton.
   

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He added: "(Woodruff) was quite interested in seeing how she could get the community involved in trying to make sure this development didn't just bulldoze this area."

In a presentation to a Pemberton council meeting on July 23, Woodruff explained the reptile inventory and answered questions.

She explained that she met with an American expert on the sharp-tailed snake during a gathering of the Association of Vertebrate Biologists in Squamish earlier this year.

"He said they are more widespread than previously believed, which is common with a rare species when you really try to look for it," said Woodruff.

"He's found them in fields and crossing roads at night. He found their preferred habitat is southwest-facing slopes, rocky areas where there's been rock fall... they spend most of their lives underground. The depth of the substrate is really important and open areas... they are more associated with dry areas as long as that substrate exists."

She told council that the current hot, dry weather meant the snakes would be far underground at the moment.

When asked by acting Mayor James Linklater what they would like developers to do, Woodruff said: "We know the preferred types of habitats for these snakes. It's literally an exercise in Google Earth to find the good spot, to see if that depth of substrate exists there by picking up a couple of rocks... if that is an area slated for development then pull it apart and see what is there or consider leaving that area and moving, tweaking that development.

"You're not talking about hillside protection, you're talking about a 25-m square lifetime range."

In an interview, Woodruff said she thought the snakes "were a really great find for Pemberton."

She added: "If you look at a lot of rare species in the south coast of British Columbia, they are found in a lot of areas that are already developed. Here is Pemberton, if you look at that hillside there are certainly large development pressures there. We have this opportunity to take the information that we have right now and try and shape that development to be the best it can be in terms of species and their interactions with people."

She added that local government is dependent on the reports submitted for environmental assessments by developers, saying, "their hands are tied when they have a professional paper saying 'that in my opinion there will be no effects.'"

Nyal Wilcox, vice president of the Sunstone Ridge development was at the same Pemberton meeting as Woodruff's presentation.

"We see Pemberton as a great community to participate in. We've got various projects well into the planning stage (on Mackenzie Ridge), some we're able to discuss and some not," Wilcox said in an interview."

He said projects around the community included the recently purchased Meadows Golf Course; residential development plans on the ridge itself and Hill Academy.

Wilcox said they were "deep in the consultation process for the residential project," including the best possible use of the land, with architects, landscape architects and others, but he was not currently in the position to say more about it.

"There was a claim of a sighting of a sharp-tailed snake a year ago and we checked out the site using GPS and it was one kilometre away from our site," he said.

"We called in our environmental consultant to look and she decided the landscape was too dry and not normal terrain for the snake, without its normal food, which is slugs. That was the initial assessment, (that) the food was not there."

In terms of the environmental assessment process they conducted, Wilcox added: "We hired a very reputable environmental consultancy firm to help us with our assessment process to date. In light of this report about the snakes that I haven't read yet, we will be reassessing the possible impact on our development plan."

Wilcox said he had not specifically spoken to the Village of Pemberton since Woodruff's presentation and would first prefer to see the report and identify the location of the sightings.

"If they truly are in the valley, it won't just impact us, it will impact the whole valley," he said.

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