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MN Press: Manitoba school copes with snake invasion

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Posted by W von Papinešu on April 17, 2003 at 17:08:09:

WINNIPEG SUN (Manitoba) 16 April 03 Manitoba school copes with snake invasion after den inadvertently covered
Alonsa, Manitoba (CP): Students and staff at a small school in western Manitoba are bracing for two annual rites of spring - exams and an invasion of garter snakes.
The unwelcome visitors have been slithering into Alonsa School each spring and fall, much to the dismay of Diane Cabak, the school's secretary for 23 years.
"When they started to come through the registers in the ceiling, that's when we realized we had a snake problem," Cabak said Tuesday. "The worst time is in May and September.
"Oh, it's horrible because I'm so frightened of them."
The problem began almost a decade ago when a snake den about 45 metres from the school was covered.
"There was an abandoned basement next to the schoolyard, and they had a den in that basement," Cabak explained. "(The owner) decided to cover it in, so when the snakes came back in the fall, they had nowhere to go."
Cons-s-s-sequently, the snakes found refuge in Alonsa school, crawling in through cracks of the foundation. At first, there were several hundred a year that Harry Harris, Alonsa conservation district manager, would take from the school to be relocated.
A number of remedies have since made a huge difference in alleviating the problem, including an artificial den called a hibernaculum that was built north of the school.
Grade 12 student Kelly Moar saw two snakes under benches outside the school Tuesday but hasn't seen any inside for three years.
"I've refused to sit on those benches for five years now," said Moar, 19, who once had pulled a book off a library shelf and found a snake on it. "In another month they'll be out in full force, but they've pretty much got rid of them in the school now.
"Before, you could hear them crawling in the ceiling when it was quiet. You would look up through the vents and you'd see their bellies. It was really gross."
Many of the 165 kindergarten to Grade 12 students aren't as bothered by the snakes as the staff, Harris said.
"I caught one in the basement in a sack and put it inside a metal garbage can," Harris recalled. "I put it in a hallway just outside Diane's office. When she walked out she turned white.
"I guess she thought it was going to eat its way out of the sack and jump out of the garbage can to get her."
The garter snakes, averaging 45 centimetres in length, are harmless.

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