Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

Rare snakes throw curve into company’s expansion plan

Published on

Troy Shantz

A Sarnia rail servicing company has worked with biologists to relocate a number of endangered Butler’s garter snakes.

The snakes were discovered on a three-acre (1.2-hectare) lot adjacent to VIP Rail’s service depot on Kenny Street, property the company acquired for expansion.

As part of the development, an environmental impact assessment conducted by a third-party biologist was required, said VIP’s director of operations Robert Butts.

Consultants suspected the property was “ideal habitat” for the small and harmless snakes, which are similar to other garter snakes but are found only on a small number of sites in southwestern Ontario.

“And sure enough, there was a couple snakes that we had to deal with,” said Butts.

VIP was founded in 2005 and specializes in servicing, switching and storing rail cars. It also operates a second facility near Corunna.

The snakes were captured and relocated to other properties VIP established in Aamjiwnaang and St. Clair Township, the company said.

VIP will monitor and manage until 2026 more than five acres (two hectares) of new or improved habitat featuring native grass plantings and birthing and basking areas. The commitment includes controlling invasive species that could negatively impact the snakes.

The company is also co-hosting a June 28 workshop to increase awareness about the rare snake and its precarious status. Residential and agricultural expansion encroach its habitat, as do invasive species like phragmites that choke out living spaces.

Butts said he didn’t know how much the relocation has cost.

“There’s always a cost to that,” he said. “It’s a cost to doing business.”

VIP isn’t the first local company impacted by the endangered snakes.

Cantaqleigh Investments Ltd., which has proposed new homes and commercial space near the Gateway Casino in Point Edward, was required to relocate about two dozen snakes to the nearby spit lands at a cost of $300,000 some time prior to 2014.



WHAT: Butler’s garter snake protection and recovery workshop, facilitated by VIP Rail and Aamjiwnaang First Nation’s Species at Risk Program.

WHEN: June 28, from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.

WHERE: Venetian B Ballroom, Holiday Inn, 1498 Venetian Blvd, Point Edward

More like this