Matthew Gibb encountered this 'big fella' gopher snake on the popular walking and cycling path along the Penticton channel on April 26, 2021.

WATCH: Penticton man has close encounters with massive snakes twice in one week

South Okanagan residents share space with scorpions, rattlesnakes, black widows and more

Matthew Gibb stumbled across ‘this big fella’ on his walk along the Penticton channel April 26.

Gibb filmed the five foot gopher-bull snake on camera hissing at him before it slithered into the grass and disappeared near the shoreline.

Then again on the morning of April 29 he ran into a fatter bull snake that appeared frozen in fear on the popular path along the channel. Dozens walk or bike the channel pathways each day, some never encountering the large snakes.

The Great Basin gopher snake, aka the bull snake, is a common sight in the South Okanagan and looks much like the endangered western rattlesnake. They even rattle their tails to mimic a rattlesnake when they feel like they are in danger.

The bull snake is just one of the many slithering, creepy crawling critters people encounter living in the South Okanagan.

Great Basin gopher snakes don’t have venom and pose no danger to humans. They can grow up to nine-feet-long but are five to six feet on average.

Their most common food source is small mammals like moles, rabbits, mice and birds. Gopher snakes have a specially-developed epiglottis which increases the sound of their hiss. When scared they can freeze in place or try to get away.

We live among some of the rarest and venomous creatures in the country.

The South Okanagan is home to scorpions, black widows, rattlesnakes, gophers bull snakes, wolf spiders, bats and more.

Recently, while out fighting a human-caused wildfire in the mountains of Oliver, Oliver Fire Rescue firefighters noticed a few albino-like scorpions by their feet. A rare sight, one of the firefighters managed to capture a picture of a larger-sized scorpion and posted to their Facebook group.

Oliver Fire Rescue encountered several scorpions while fighting a wildfire in a mountain in Oliver this month. (Oliver Fire photo)

The Okanagan Valley, especially Osoyoos and Oliver are the home of endangered western rattlesnakes.

While there is an estimated 2,500 of them living in the area, they are endangered and many fear they won’t exist at some point. Their main predator is actually vehicles that run them over and loss of habitat.

They are very shy and use their rattle only to warn that they are scared and don’t want to attack. But they do have venom and our hospitals are equipped with anti-venom if necessary.

READ MORE: The western rattlesnake could become hissssss-tory

Recently, people have been posting pictures of their encounters with large gopher snakes, which look similar to a rattlesnake but they don’t have the venom or the rattle.

One Summerland resident had the most unusual encounter last Christmas when fishing for ornaments in his basement.

A gopher snake made an unexpected appearance in the crawlspace of his home.

Rick Lambert found the snake, around 50 centimetres long, in the crawlspace, figuring it must have come in from the cold.

One person offered to keep the snake as a pet but keeping any snake from the wild is illegal. There are seven different snakes in the Okanagan, including the rubber snake.

READ MORE: Wild snake make surprise Christmas visit

Black widows also live among us, able to produce a venom strong enough to kill a bird. The shiny black spiders with the notable red dot on their backs are a household spider found pretty much all over the Southern Interior.

If a healthy adult is bitten they can expect soreness and swelling around the bite area and possibly a fever but it won’t kill them. Children, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of suffering more serious complications from a black widow bite which may require a hospital visit. Pets are also at risk.

Former Black Press journalist Phil McLachlan took this picture of a black widow living at his Penticton home. (Phil McLachlan)

READ MORE: COVID provides perfect conditions for black widows



monique.Tamminga@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

John Pavelich’s 83rd birthday had an added surprise; members of Enderby City Council came by his residence to present him with a Lifetime Civic Merit award Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Contributed)
Enderby resident unwraps Lifetime Civic Merit award on 83rd birthday

John ‘JP’ Pavelich has been a pillar of volunteerism in Enderby since 1967

Spallumcheen councillors (from left) Todd York, Gerry Popoff, Christine LeMaire, John Bakker, Joe Van Tienhoven and Andrew Casson join Mayor Christine Fraser (fourth from left) in helping to proclaim the township open for business with new signage off Highway 97A. (Township of Spallumcheen photo)
Being open for business paying dividends for Spallumcheen

Township wins provincial award, new business and building starts increase

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

The Vernon Vipers defeated the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 to secure the top spot in the BC Hockey League Vernon pod Friday, May 7, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
VIDEO: Vipers beat Salmon Arm, clinch top spot in BCHL Vernon pod

Goaltender James Porter Jr. was a wall for the Vipers, who outscored the Silverbacks 3-1 Friday

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The Oliver Fire Department had to put out a fire on their own training ground, and it wasn’t one they set. (Facebook)
Vehicles torched at Oliver Fire Department training grounds

This suspected arson comes after the cars were vandalized earlier and suspicious fire the night before

Tavis Stevenson, son of Pam and Bruce Stevenson, founders of The Book Shop on Main St, is the creator of the whimsical animal farm carts seen above The Book Shop. He also painted the book mural in the back alley behind the shop. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
The Book Shop in downtown Penticton is one of those rare gems

The Book Shop, like so many businesses, is wanting to turn the page to the end of this pandemic

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Mathieu Bourgault (13) tries unsuccessfully to deflect past West Kelowna goalie Johnny Derrick during the Warriors’ come-from-behind 7-6 BC Hockey Leaguje pod shootout victory Saturday, May 8, at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Tami Quan Photography)
West Kelowna Warriors rally to edge Salmon Arm in shootout

Warriors overcome three significant deficits to post 7-6 BCHL pod win in Vernon; Silverbacks finish pod 9-7-2-2

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Most Read