Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

Keeping Reptiles in Winnipeg

In the wake of the seizure of nine snakes from a Winnipeg apartment with more than 50 of them, Winnipeg’s head of by-law services has gone to great pains to reassure pet owners in the city. (He must have been getting phone calls.) Leland Gordon told CBC News that the city is not tracking snake owners, and so long as the species are legal, you can have as many reptiles as you like. (We’ll see how long that lasts.) So, which species are legal?

The city by-law specifically prohibits venomous reptiles, crocodilians, several large monitor lizards, and large boas and pythons: based on the list, it looks like boas and pythons that can hit 10 feet are out; that includes boa constrictors and carpet pythons. Smaller boas, pythons and monitors, including rainbow boas, erycines, ball pythons, and savannah monitors, appear to be legal, as are all other species of non-venomous snake, lizard and turtle.

Then there’s provincial law. Section 45 of Manitoba’s Wildlife Act prohibits the possession of native wildlife unless otherwise authorized by a licence or regulations. There are some legal distinctions between reptiles and amphibians listed on Schedule A of the Act — some are listed as reptiles and amphibians, some as protected species, and some aren’t listed on the schedule at all — but, so far as I can tell, from the point of view of the reptile keeper they aren’t relevant: if it’s native to Manitoba, you shouldn’t keep it. (The Act is unclear about non-native subspecies, as such things frequently are, but in practice I would be very surprised if a demonstrably alien subspecies like a Florida Blue-Striped Garter Snake got anyone in trouble.)

It’s not an atypical by-law at all; Ottawa’s is actually far more restrictive. Boa constrictors and carpet pythons are probably the most commonly kept animals that are affected here. Nor is it unusual for a province to ban the keeping of native species. All in all, though I’ve kept animals that would have run afoul of these restrictions (one boa constrictor, plus snakes native to Manitoba), I could live with them.