Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

For goodness snakes, province steps in

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RELIEF is coming for residents of an Interlake seniors complex who have seen their home invaded by garter snakes, the province said Thursday.

Repairs to foundation cracks at the Inwood Manor should commence next week, said Joy Cramer, chief executive officer of Manitoba Housing, which oversees the facility.

"We've got contractors already lined up and... we're hoping to start the work next week," Cramer said in an interview.

The 55-plus residence is located near the world's largest red-sided garter snake dens at Narcisse, about an hour's drive north of Winnipeg.

Ann O'Malley, who moved into the building last spring, said she's hoping the contractors are successful.

"Everybody is stirred up. Hopefully things will get completed," she said Thursday, adding that there are no other problems with the building. "If I move out of here, it will be because of the snakes. There's no other reason I would ever move. I'm really happy here."

Each spring, tens of thousands of snakes emerge from their warm limestone caves underground to mate; in fall, they crawl back to their snug homes. It's during these migratory periods that the slithery invaders become a pest to the building's residents.

Cramer said the creatures can wiggle into tiny foundation gaps. "Anything larger than 3/16 of an inch needs to be filled," she said.

The facility was erected in 1976 by the Inwood Manor Inc., a non-profit group, with funding from Ottawa. It is managed and operated by a non-profit board.

In 1999, the province took over responsibility for overseeing such facilities. It also funds major capital repairs.

While the snake problem is a building maintenance issue -- falling under the responsibility of the facility's management -- Cramer said the province has agreed to fix the problem, at the non-profit board's request.

"We work closely with our non-profits to support them, and so when something like this comes up we're certainly there to support them and help them," she said.

Inwood Manor administrators could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 18, 2009 A16

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