It has been quite the month of June for one Osoyoos rattlesnake, who ultimately decided to leave his desert home in style, but has now been safely returned to the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.
Enzo, a locally-marked Western Rattlesnake that was registered by the Nk’Mip Snake Research Program back in May, was recently found on the third floor of a Ferrari dealership in Vancouver — just over 400 km away.
A story that had many scratching their heads, but according to Lindsay Whitehead, the lead field biologist with the Snake Research Program, it all started when employees from the Vancouver Ferrari dealership took a vacation to the desert and stopped by Nk’Mip Cellars.
Whitehead says that the slithery stowaway hitched a ride on the undercarriage of one of the luxury vehicles as it headed back to the dealership — part of a journey out of the desert that she estimates to be about 12 days total for the snake.
When Ferrari discovered their new snake-skinned salesman, it contacted BC’s Wildlife Rescue Association who brought Enzo to an animal hospital.
It was the Dewdney Animal Hospital in Pitt Meadows that first made contact with the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, recognizing a ring of green paint around Enzo’s rattle and discovering a microchip that had been used to tag the snake from Osoyoos-based researchers just one month prior.
“At first, I didn’t believe it, I thought someone was pulling my leg,” Whitehead said after receiving an e-mail from the hospital.
The biologist says that the same reaction occurred at the Ferrari dealership, as the employees thought Enzo was made of rubber and was part of a prank, of course until he started slithering around.
The snake has since made the journey back to Osoyoos and was released into the wild at around 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.
It was through the work of the Snake Research Program at Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, which is working alongside the Osoyoos Indian Band, that helped veterinarians locate the rattlesnake’s rightful home.
Whitehead, along with her team, is currently working out of the Desert Cultural Centre and marking snakes to get an estimate on the population in 2022.
Whitehead says biologists track the snakes using radio telemetry to learn about their habits and use of the surrounding habitats. Large snakes are implanted for six months with radio transmitters so that their daily movements can be tracked, while others — such as Enzo — are marked with a PIT Tag.
As a result of the Osoyoos-based researchers marking Enzo with a PIT Tag, the Dewdney Animal Hospital was able to pinpoint almost exactly where the snake needed to be released.
The population study that started in 2003 now includes over 700 individual rattlesnakes.
“We are so fortunate to have such an incredible partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band, being able to work out of the Nk’Mip Cultural Centre, it’s absolutely amazing and it really helps us to conserve these species that are so incredibly important,” notes Whitehead.
For visitors coming to Osoyoos, Whitehead adds there is a good chance you see a rattlesnake when stopping by the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre as well.
“It’s not uncommon that people will hear a rattle or see a snake while at the Centre or in the wild,” she emphasized.
As for Enzo, Whitehead says, “we are really happy to get him back.”
The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is open year-round from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and hey, the next time you stop by you might just catch a glimpse of the famed Enzo!
Details about the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre can be found online by clicking here.
More information about the Snake Research Program being executed here in Osoyoos is available on the Desert Cultural Centre’s website here.