Snakes emerge from their group hibernacula in early spring (generally April) once the weather warms up to around 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).
In September-early October, the snakes return to their hibernacula after spending summer in their preferred habitats.
Learn more about snakes at Dinosaur Provincial Park in Reptiles of Alberta, a publication of the Alberta Conservation Association.
The prairie rattlesnake is Alberta’s only venomous snake although its bite is rarely fatal to humans.
They will only strike if provoked or surprised.
To avoid surprising prairie rattlesnakes
Pay attention to your surroundings. Listen for the intense buzzing sound created by their rattles.
Walk on established trails. It's easier to see if there’s a snake sunning on the path.
Quickly check your blind spots before stepping down from or onto rock ledges (where snakes may be sunning or hiding).
If you see a snake while in Dinosaur Provincial Park, feel free to observe it safely from a distance. Please do not disturb it or try to interact with it.
Rattlesnakes are olive green and brown in colouration. They have a broad triangular head, vertical cat-like pupils and usually a warning rattle on their tail.
They add a new button of dried skin to their rattle every time they shed. The rattle can break off or be lost to predators, however.
If you aren’t sure which snake you’ve spotted, check the shape of the head and pupils.
Rattlesnakes prefer to avoid any confrontation with animals that are too large to eat. They will often hide or leave the area before you are aware of their presence.
Alberta’s largest snake is the non-venomous bull snake.
They are constrictors (squeeze their prey before consuming) and excellent climbers. Bull snakes prey on young cottontail rabbits, small rodents and nesting birds.
Bull snakes are yellow or cream coloured with large brown blotches and smaller heads. They also have an enlarged scale on their noses to help dig in loose soil or animal burrows.
The defensive posture of the bull snake is similar to a rattlesnake’s in that they hiss loudly and shake their tail. However, a quick check for head shape and rounded pupils will confirm whether it’s a bull snake.
An interesting fact - bull snakes lay eggs and rattlesnakes give birth to live young!