Road Mortality of a Threatened Snake Population in the South Okanagan

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in partnership with the Province of BC

TRU is a comprehensive, learner-centred, sustainable university that serves its regional, national, and international learners and their communities through high quality and flexible education, training, research and scholarship. The principal investigator on this project will be Karl Larsen, who is professor in wildlife ecology and management in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at Thompson Rivers University. Larsen has been conducting ecological and conservation work on small, terrestrial vertebrates for over 30 years, he has had six MSc students conduct thesis work on conservation threats facing rattlesnakes in the Okanagan, including two focusing on the White Lake situation.

Snakes and other reptiles are susceptible to being killed on roads. In fact, road mortality is one of the most significant threats facing many species at risk in the South Okanagan. Under-road tunnels (‘ecopassages’) are seen as an important solution, yet these structures are expensive and their effectiveness for many species is unknown. This is a particularly critical issue in the South Okanagan where road expansion and traffic volumes will continue as the region attracts more residents and visitors. This project will assess the response of rattlesnakes (a species at risk) 4 other at-risk reptile and amphibian species to underpassages that are currently deployed in the White Lake Basin. The project will provide recommendations for improvements for underpasses to increase their effectiveness for reducing roadkill for species that are at risk and susceptible.

This project builds on previous years of research in the White Lake Basin. This an extension of the third year of a 3-year request that was approved by Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $28,230 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2023. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars are matching significant confirmed funding from other sources. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2025.