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Snake found in New Minas grocery store likely harmless: zoologist

Carol Benedict, a Windsor resident, snapped this picture of a snake found in a cart at the New Minas Superstore June 30. She says store employees were quick to take action once it was discovered.
Carol Benedict, a Windsor resident, snapped this picture of a snake found in a cart at the New Minas Superstore June 30. She says store employees were quick to take action once it was discovered. - Contributed

NEW MINAS, NS - The bad news? Snakes, like the one spotted inside the New Minas Superstore recently, can grow pretty big in the wild in Nova Scotia.

The good news? Garter snakes aren’t likely to harm people.

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• Snakes in a store: New Minas Superstore shoppers surprised by snake

Andrew Hebda is a zoologist and curator of zoology at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax. After a story about a snake found in a shopping cart in the Kings County grocery store went viral on Facebook, Hebda shared some of his knowledge about Maritime garter snakes – the largest species of snakes found in Nova Scotia.

“They are our largest snake in the province, but, in general, tend to be somewhat shy,” said Hebda.

“Anyone encountering one in the wild, I suggest just leaving them alone. They do, on occasion, show up in dwellings, although I suspect this one may have taken refuge with the shopping carts - good protection from predators, even the big, hairy, screamy ones,” he said.

Hebda also noted that since snakes are cold blooded, the warmer it is, the more active snakes are. With temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius due to the recent heat wave, it’s making snakes a bit more active.

Carol Benedict, a Windsor resident, snapped this picture of a snake found in a cart at the New Minas Superstore June 30. She says store employees were quick to take action once it was discovered.
Carol Benedict, a Windsor resident, snapped this picture of a snake found in a cart at the New Minas Superstore June 30. She says store employees were quick to take action once it was discovered.

Don’t worry, though – garter snakes aren’t dangerous to people. If cornered, they may defensively bite, but they are not venomous and the bite would just be a warning to leave it alone. 

“Their bite would be more of a surprise than anything,” said Hebda.

“If you do encounter one, they can be carefully lifted and release outdoors (buildings are a bit like deserts for them - little cover, and precious little food).”

Based on the images, Hebda suspects that the snake found in the Superstore is a large female.

“The females tend to be quite a bit larger than males, and give birth to live young in mid-summer,” said Hebda.

According to the Museum of Natural History’s website, adult females can grow up to 91 centimetres in length.

READ MORE:

• Nova Scotia Museum: About garter snakes

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