Get Outdoors! And build brown fat

Get Outdoors

Did you know that people have brown fat? I didn’t — until recently. I knew that bears, squirrels, winter birds and other wildlife do to survive the cold — but people?

Brown fat (AKA brown adipose tissue) helps maintain your body temperature when you get too cold. It’s the same fat that bears have to stay warm when they hibernate and then gives them energy to rewarm out of hibernation. Brown fat works the same way for mammals, like squirrels, that go into torpor (a mini-hibernation) when it’s dangerously cold.

Brown fat acts as a built-in heater. Human babies are born with brown fat on their upper backs. You lose most of it as you get older and then form a shiver response to cold temperatures. Although you lose most of your brown fat as you grow, you may hold on to some of it. Some adults have small amounts of brown fat around the shoulders, neck, collarbone, kidneys and spinal cord. Lean people typically have more brown fat than overweight people. Women also tend to have more than men.

You also have another type of fat — white fat which is different. White fat builds up when you take in extra calories storing it to use when you don’t get enough energy from food. It’s made of big droplets of lipids, or fatty acids. Most of the fat in your body is white fat; typically stored in your thighs, hips and waistline. Too much white fat in your belly can raise your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

But, cells in brown fat are packed with iron-rich mitochondria giving brown fat its colour. They take in nutrients like sugar and white fat and break them down to make energy. Brown fat stores more energy in a smaller space than white fat does. When your body gets cold it signals the mitochondria to start churning out energy. This creates the warmth that helps you maintain your body temperature. It creates heat without shivering and burns calories. Brown fat may decrease obesity and some metabolic problems.

All people have some “constitutive” brown fat which they’re born with. There’s also “recruitable” brown fat formed under the right circumstances. Here’s how:

Turn the temperature down and go for winter walks

Exposing yourself to cool and even cold temperatures may help recruit brown fat. Just two hours of exposure each day to temperatures around 19 degrees Celsius may be enough to gain recruitable brown fat. Consider taking a cold shower or bath. During winter, turn the thermostat down a few degrees in your home and go outside in cold weather to cool down.

Eat well

Brown fat burns calories and helps you stay leaner and healthier. A well-balanced diet of healthy unprocessed foods certainly helps too.


Exercise may signal hormones that create brown fat. Exercise fights obesity, keeps the cardiovascular system running strong and has so many other health benefits. Do a minimum of one of the following every week:

• 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking

• 75 minutes of vigorous activity, such as cross country skiing

Sleep Naked

So they say. Keeping cool at night helps recruit brown fat.

Brown fat research

Researchers know that brown fat burns calories and may help control blood sugar, improve insulin levels and may also help remove fats from blood. Most brown fat studies have been done on mice. More research is needed on people.

Roseanne Van Ee enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Follow her on Facebook

Get Outdoors!: and get tracking

Mouse tracks cross Snowshoe Hare tracks. (Roseanne Van Ee photo)Tracking is an exciting and marvellous way to discover wildlife in their natural environment.

And snow is ideal for tracking; a record is impressed wherever wildlife move, hunt, feed, rest or sleep. Snow also reveals and highlights wildlife signs such as climbing scars, rubs and scratches on trees.

Look for scent-marks (pee), scats (poop) and feeding signs like clipped conifer cones, gnawed seeds and nipped-off vegetation. These are all tracking signs.

Tracking is primarily following footprints in a line. They reveal how slow or fast an animal is travelling, what it’s doing or thinking and where it’s going and why.

Just remember: wildlife find their own food, water, shelter and need space; that’s what makes them wild.

Experience the wild winter wonderland, and observe and inspect wildlife signs while snowshoeing. February is the best time to track as the winter days warm and lengthen.

By then the snow is usually nicely settled for easier snowshoeing and new snowfalls show off tracks clearly. Fluffy or melting snow distorts tracks.

Most wildlife avoids deep, fluffy snow that’s too difficult to travel through.

Like us, wildlife prefers to follow pathways making travel much easier.

Head up to Silver Star or Sovereign’s trails for great tracking experiences and see if you can identify the wildlife tracks. Morning treks might reveal a host of nocturnal travellers.

For help, ask a naturalist, hunter or nature-loving friend about wildlife in the area. If you’re lucky, maybe there’s a book, pamphlet or website featuring the wildlife.

Check the library or online for a good winter wildlife field guide. Write a list of wildlife for the area. This helps keep it fresh in your mind and a quick reference.

Then head out to explore and watch for signs. A whole new world of discovery will open up to you. Find something you want a photograph? Place your hand, finger or a coin next to the track, scat or sign to show its size.

Stop, look and listen. Move slowly and keep your eyes open, ears cocked and even sniff. Notice disturbances like digs and holes in the snow or feeding signs.

Listen for branches snapping, scratching or anything unusual.

Look up, down and under, then take a closer look. Slow down and double-check. Be curious. When you see a sign, ask: What is this? What happened here? What could it be? Why? Where did it go? Wake up your instincts. We’ve been living with wildlife for millennia. If you suspect something, check it out.

Birds generally feel safe being seen. And often their nests in trees or shrubs are obvious.

But other wildlife either camouflage or hide from people, are nocturnal or are scarce. They may be hiding in the snow, on the other side of a tree, etc. Stay still and you may see them come out.

Look for subnivean (under snow) entry holes beside tree trunks or near bent over, snow-covered shrubs which look like bumps on the undulating snowy landscape. And realize there’s a whole busy community thriving in tunnels and pockets under your trail. Of course, you can’t see the subnivean environment, so while snowshoeing let your eyes sweep over the snowy landscape looking for holes.

These are the wildlife passages into the subnivean habitat. Imagine the world underneath. If it’s warm enough, stay still for a few minutes. You may be lucky enough to catch the hidden comings and goings. Good luck! Have fun being a wildlife detective!

This article is written for the Vernon Morning Star by Roseanne Van Ee. Roseanne enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Discover exciting and adventurous natural events, best trails, and wild places. Follow her on Facebook for more.

Get Outdoors! And protect our snow

Silver Star’s snow and valley inversion at sunset. Eventually, that snow turns into water. (Roseanne Van Ee photo)

Ninety per cent of our water comes from frozen water vapour as snow. And water is amazing! It continually morphs into liquid, solid ice, vapour, rain and frozen, crystalline snow. This makes snow part of the great never-ending water cycle. Think of the rivers, streams, lakes, groundwater, rain, vapour and snow as an ongoing water cycle circulatory system. All our water eternally circulates in a closed-loop system between our atmosphere, earth’s soil and everything alive within. Water is vital to all life on Earth, and in the Okanagan snow is a critical link in that system. We eventually drink our snow as water.

We live in a majorly snow-dominated watershed — high elevation lakes and forests release snowmelt into our valley. Creeks runoff mostly April to July and peak in the valley bottom lakes May to June. Hydrologists measure the depth and weight of snow throughout winter at high elevation snow survey points in undisturbed snow patches to determine the year’s water availability.

But our upper watersheds, mostly on crown land, get multiple uses; forestry, cattle grazing, recreation and mining. These are managed to minimize impacts on snow which eventually affects water quality. It’s critically important to keep animal and human wastes and sediment out of water. Clean water needs less expensive water treatment. So, during winter, stay on established trails and roads for human safety, to prevent erosion and to protect our water supply. Use the toilet before going out to enjoy the snow, pack out your garbage and minimize pollution. Maintain the quality and quantity of snow.

Snow can be powdery light if dry, or tediously heavy when wet. Snowflakes drift down from the sky at two to six km/hr, or faster if windy. They are clear crystals, like sugar and salt, that appears white as it piles up.

Where the climate is cold enough for year-to-year accumulation, a glacier may form. Otherwise, snow typically melts in the spring running off into watershed streams and recharging groundwater. Unlike many other parts of Canada, just a few centimetres of snow settles in Vernon. It can come and go through winter.

Then just a half-hour drive uphill, two to three meters of snow settles throughout the winter. Vernon’s single largest water source, BX Creek, starts on Silver Star Mountain. Some runoff settles in Swan Lake then flows through BX Creek into Vernon Creek then into Okanagan Lake then through the Columbia River out to the Pacific Ocean between Washington and Oregon. Interestingly, snow on the east side of Silver Star flows down Vance or Putnam Creeks, through the Shuswap to the Thompson and Fraser Rivers and out to the Pacific through Vancouver.

More of our water comes from snow than from rain in the Okanagan.

More water evaporates from our Okanagan lakes during our hot, dry summers than is replaced by rain or snow; so our lakes are receding.

Amazing that so little snow settles in Vernon when one of the snowiest places on Earth is only a couple hours away in the mountains around Revelstoke. Rogers Pass gets the highest annual snowfall of all highways in the world; about 8.7 m/year. The record is twice that. And the steeper the terrain, the greater the likelihood of avalanches. That’s the reason for the series of highway snowsheds. Higher up on Mt. Copeland, about 20 km northwest of Revelstoke, holds the Canadian record of 24.5 m. Now that’s a lot of snow! Eventually, its runoff generates hydroelectric power giving us some of the lowest electricity rates.

So please take care of our snow — it’s our water!

This article is written for the Vernon Morning Star by Roseanne Van Ee. Roseanne enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Discover exciting and adventurous natural events, best trails, and wild places. Follow her on Facebook for more.

Get Outdoors! And go for a walk

For us, November is the transition from fall to winter. It can make us lazy. Animals either migrate, hibernate or insulate to survive winter’s onslaught. We’re animals too; so if you’re not migrating to warmer climates – don’t hibernate – insulate and get outside for a walk!

Preferably breathe in fresh, clean air on a park trail or forest path with a friend. Absorb those health-giving aromatic and volatile oils exuded from trees — that’s forest bathing.

Brisk walking is the easiest, most basic and effective exercise. All you need is 30 minutes per day to promote weight control and total health fitness. You can break it down into three 10 minute sessions or so. Walking helps fend off most of our modern diseases and ailments. It helps prevent or control obesity and depression — the top two causes of chronic diseases today.

Get this!: Walking helps prevent and/or cures heart disease, most cancers, stroke, diabetes, heart attacks, anxiety, back pain, high blood pressure, abdominal fat, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, colds, high cholesterol, headaches, menstrual cramps, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, hearing loss, impotence, prostate growth, gout, glaucoma, gallstones, constipation, eases emphysema, regulates BMs, and much, much more. Walking boosts the immune system, regulates serotonin and dopamine, and releases endorphins.

Walking can greatly assist in recovering from injuries. I’m living proof! Even with plates and pins around my ankles and hip replacements I graduated from a wheelchair to a walker, and with the help of a wonderful physiotherapist, to hiking poles in less than two years. I can dance again, too.

Vitamin D, from 15 minutes of sunshine, helps avert osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, hip fractures, cavities, PMS, and colon and prostate cancers. Sunlight can remedy insomnia, fatigue, depression and asthma.

Most of these ailments and diseases are a result of our indoor, sedentary, overeating, chemical-rich lifestyle. Regular exercise, healthy diet and good relationships are the key to a better disease-free life. Walking is a great way to start. Convinced? Check out Vernon’s Ribbons of Green website for the best list and maps of our trails.

We’re lucky to have so many year-round accessible trails and Silver Star on our doorstep. Good on you (literally) if you can get up the hill to enjoy cross country skiing or snowshoeing starting this November. I fondly remember the exhilarating feeling of swishing through those first November snowfalls on skate skis. Talk about endorphins!

Need buddies to walk with? Check out the North Okanagan Naturalist Club and Vernon Outdoors Club websites. Or search for Vernon hiking groups on Facebook. Of course, wear a brimmed hat, sunglasses and cover up with sunscreen or cotton sleeves and pants during strong sunlight hours and seasons. You can observe and enjoy nature while walking, too.

German forester, Peter Wohlleben, has written some of my favourite nature books on trees, animals, weather, etc. He’s interested in “reclaiming our sensitivity to nature and reawakening our powers of observation that have been buried under the clutter of modernity. When we use our senses at full capacity, we access the wealth of thrilling and calming experiences waiting for us just outside our back doors, in nature… The world seems to expand when we’re able to appreciate it in all its diversity. I hope you find many new discoveries when you’re out and about.”

So — bundle up, get outdoors and enjoy walking!


This article is written for the Vernon Morning Star by Roseanne Van Ee. Roseanne enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Discover exciting and adventurous natural events, best trails, and wild places. Follow her on Facebook for more.

Get Outdoors!: Revel in the beauty of autumn leaf colours


During the spring and summer, chlorophyll in tree leaves absorbs sunlight to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates such as sugars and starch for tree energy and growth.

Carbon is digested into the tree and oxygen is released from the leaves. Isn’t it amazing that plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, and animals do the opposite? We should be incredibly grateful for this balance on Earth.

Water and nutrients flow up from the roots into the leaf veins. This food-making process, called photosynthesis, takes place in the numerous leaf cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green colour.

Along with the green leaves’ pigment are yellow, orange and red pigments; the same pigments that colour our foods; yellow xanthophyll (as in corn and golden aspen leaves), orange carotenes (as in carrots and mountain ash leaves) and red anthocyanin (as in cherries and red sumac leaves). Most of the year these colours are masked in the leaves by the great amounts of chlorophyll’s green pigment.

But in the fall, after a dry summer, when daylight hours shorten, tree leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll (green colour) stops being produced and fades away allowing the other colour pigments (mainly yellow, orange, and red) in the leaves to show off their brilliant autumn splendour.

Deciduous trees and shrubs shed their solar panels to hibernate through winter and take a break from photosynthesizing. The stems of the leaves weaken (without food) and the leaves fall from the trees blown by the wind or pelted by rain.

But what about the needle-like leaves of pines, fir, spruce and hemlock, or scale-like leaves of cedar and juniper – our evergreens? These hardy trees leaves have less surface area and have a waxy coating, plus they produce a type of antifreeze that stops the chlorophyll from drying up. Their needles or scales stay on the trees during winter and keep their green colour. An exception is our Western Larches. Their soft, unwaxed needles turn golden and fall – they’re deciduous (and coniferous).

The best time to enjoy autumn’s sun-kissed, brilliant colours is on a clear, dry, cool day. One of my favourite autumn colour-viewing spots in Vernon is on Rocky Ridge at Turtle Mountain on a sunny, late afternoon. Lumby’s Salmon Trail, just below the highway, is wonderful to hike in shimmering fall colour. So is Mission Creek in Kelowna’s Springfield Park.

I like to collect a small basket of autumn leaves to decorate my home‘s entry. My kids and I played a fall game when we went hiking; each of us tried to be the first person to shout “fall” when a leaf fell from a tree.

Enjoy the colour; it only occurs for a brief period each fall.

And remember — when you see those yellow, orange and red pigments — they’ve been there all along, and autumn is their time to shine.

This article is written for the Vernon Morning Star by Roseanne Van Ee. Roseanne enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Discover exciting and adventurous natural events, best trails, and wild places. Follow her on Facebook for more.

Get Outdoors!: Behold! Migration season is upon us in North Okanagan

Some people think that hummingbirds catch rides on the backs of geese for their migratory trip down south.

Truth is; hummingbirds are well on their way to Mexico when the geese are just taking their “practice flights” for migration to the coast or just into the warmer United States.

Physics gives hummingbirds an advantage with a smaller, light body weight.

They just need to refuel all along the way to maintain their energy. That’s why all hummingbird feeders should be taken down by mid August. If the “hummers” stay too late, they could succumb to freezing.

Big Canada Geese, on the other hand, store fat for their trip. That’s why they’ve adopted the energy efficient “V” flight formation.

Our Great Blue Herons (that nest on 24th St.) have already been dispersing to various open-water lakes for the winter.

Some may migrate to the coast to winter on good fishing grounds.

Most birds migrate at night following the stars (like sailors) along migratory pathways (usually air currents of least resistance).

Some of our birds migrate all the way down to South America.

I love sitting back on mosquito-less, moonlit September and October nights with binoculars in hand to spot flocks passing in the night sky.

If you’re in a quiet spot; listen. Could it be the calls of migrating flocks or the rustle of dry leaves in the breeze?

You might even see bats migrating to their winter colonies further south. Their “flutter” of wings distinguishes them from birds.

Don’t come to the Allan Brooks Nature Centre looking for the yellow-bellied marmots now.

These large rodents, like the Columbian Ground Squirrels, have gone underground for an early rest to “estivate” while they’re still fat from summer’s seed bounty.

They re-emerge with young in April.

Snakes, frogs and other reptiles and amphibians are moving towards their wintering grounds now, too.

Watch for late emerging Mourning Cloak and Tortoiseshell butterflies in the fall. They’ll overwinter here tucked behind bark or in tree grooves. The large yellow and black butterflies are non-migrating Swallowtails, often mistaken for the orange and black migrating Monarchs.

Don’t miss watching the Kokanee spawn on Coldstream Creek in late September to early October.

The best spawning beds for viewing are in Creekside and Coldstream Parks (behind Coldstream School).

These Sockeye Salmon descendants became “land-locked” as the glacial-produced massive waterways, which once connected to the Pacific, drained and evaporated into separate lakes.

For thousands of years Kokanee annually spawned to lay eggs in gravel creekbeds and shorelines.

Until the early 1900s, almost every major creek flowing into Okanagan Lake supported thousands of spawning Kokanee each fall.

I’ve seen a sharp decline in spawning numbers in the past 25 years.

Get out there with your children and friends to enjoy this miraculous phenomena before it dies out (or can we save the Kokanee?).

Leave your pets at home!

Fall’s a great time to observe nature.

Thankfully, Vernon has many opportunities to enjoy it:

  • Visit the Allan Brooks Nature Centre.
  • The North Okanagan Naturalist Club welcomes anyone interested to join their free Saturday morning nature hikes.
  • Join the Vernon Outdoors Club for a variety of great fall hikes and cycles.
  • There’s many hiking groups on Facebook.

Fortunately we’re surrounded by spectacular provincial parks: Camp and/or hike Kalamalka Lake, Ellison, Kekuli Bay, Sovereign Lake, Mabel Lake, Fintry and Bear Creek.

This article is written for the Vernon Morning Star by Roseanne Van Ee. Roseanne enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Discover exciting and adventurous natural events, best trails, and wild places. Follow her on Facebook for more.

A Rare Encounter at ABNC

On August 12, 2020 we had a special visitor….a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake was found! This was an exciting and rare find, as this was the first time in our 20 year history that we have encountered a rattlesnake at Allan Brooks Nature Centre. 

The rattlesnake was found onsite at ABNC basking in the sun, by a staff member in the afternoon. The grassland at Allan Brooks Nature Centre is a protected ecosystem that is a safe place for wildlife species to call home and we are always excited to find new species onsite. However, due to the specific location that the rattlesnake was found it was not safe for the snake or for our visitors. For this reason, Peter Wise of Wise Wildlife Control was called to safely relocate the snake. The rattlesnake was relocated in the same grassland ecosystem to the south of ABNC, within 1 km of where it was found. 

The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (or Western Rattlesnake) is commonly found in the Thompson-Okanagan region and their summer habitat includes grassland ecosystems with rocky outcrops. ABNC is located in a grassland ecosystem that would seem like suitable habitat for the species, however they have very rarely been found in the area surrounding ABNC. Peter Wise stated that “In his previous 25 years of working in wildlife control in the Vernon area, he has only encountered 2 other rattlesnakes on the Northern piece of the Commonage ridge that ABNC occupies”. It is unknown as to why this is.

The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake is an important part of the local ecosystems and should not be feared, but rather respected. If you come across a rattlesnake it is important to keep your distance and slowly back away from the snake. They are a non-aggressive snake, but any wild animal may try to defend themselves if they feel threatened. If you find a rattlesnake in a location not safe for the snake or for people, do not try to relocate the snake yourself. Please call Peter, at Wise Wildlife Control at 250- 503-7151. 

For more information on the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (or Western Rattlesnake) check out Roseanne Van Ee’s article here: Get Outdoors! and learn about rattlesnakes. 

Get Outdoors! and learn about rattlesnakes Part 2

This article is written for the Vernon Morning Star by Roseanne Van Ee. Roseanne enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Discover exciting and adventurous natural events, best trails, and wild places. Follow her on Facebook for more.

(Part 1 on Rattlesnakes was published in the Vernon Morning Star’s July 9, 2020, edition)

Rattlesnake reproduction is remarkable and unique.

Western Rattlesnakes must be almost one-metre long before becoming sexually mature at five to eight years.

They mate in late summer and early fall on the foraging range, but females store the sperm.

In the following late spring, the sperm is reactivated to fertilize the eggs within her, then the gravid (pregnant) mom basks near the den in the warm sun all summer to encourage the babies growth.

From the time a female mates until the five or so young are born in the fall, she rarely feeds.

She then enters hibernation for the winter to recover. By the time she emerges next spring, she is emaciated (wasted)!

The following summer season or two is spent foraging to recover and to double her weight before mating again.

Male rattlesnakes, on the other hand, fight each other during breeding season. (Sound familiar for the animal kingdom?)

This amazing reproduction process gives the rattlesnakes a disadvantage to survival as a species, and makes them vulnerable to environmental disturbances or poaching.

They easily become extirpated (extinct in areas).

Rattlesnake facts

Western Rattlesnakes are almost endangered in British Columbia.

Their numbers are quickly declining because of habitat destruction, purposeful killings and road kill.

It is illegal to harm or kill a rattlesnake.

Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park had 2,000 to 3,000 rattlesnakes within its boundaries in the 1980s when last counted. There’s probably far fewer now. It is the only protected area for Western Rattlesnake dens, but you’re unlikely to encounter one.

Rattlesnakes overwinter in communal hibernacula in deep crevices or rock piles on sunny, warm slopes. They stay close to home; within 1.5 kilometres of their dens during their active season from spring thaw to autumn frosts.

They faithfully return to their same dens. Vernon dens that were studied contained eight to 266 snakes.

Adult rattlesnakes are 60 to 150 centimetres in length. The oldest can live up to 25 years.

Rattlesnake fangs are on hinges that pop into action when they strike. They can regrow new fangs if any are removed.

B.C.’s rattlesnakes diet: 96 per cent small rodents, four per cent small birds.

Very large Rattlesnakes will eat Red Squirrels and baby marmots.

Rattlesnake predators include skunks, hawks and owls.

Most are preyed on in their first year.

Only about 25 per cent of rattlers survive their first year.

Young rattlers have the same strength of venom as adults, just as children’s saliva is similar to adult humans.

Bull Snakes (aka Gopher Snakes) often share the same habitat as rattlers.

They are adaptive imitators of rattlesnakes without the triangular head, fangs or rattle.

Bull Snakes will coil up in defence, hiss and shake their tail. Their hissing and shaking on pebbles sounds like a rattle. This is all in bluff to scare off predators.

Rattlesnakes around Vernon were hunted to near extinction in the 1930s and ‘40s after a young boy from Austin Mackie’s school was killed. Around 4,000 rattlers were killed. The student was handling rattlesnakes at a den site.

Areas where snakes have been eliminated tend to have terrible rodent populations.

Rodents can cause way more damage to human livelihoods and crops than snakes ever will.

Roseanne shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Follow her on Facebook for more.

Get Outdoors! and learn about rattlesnakes

This article is written for the Vernon Morning Star by Roseanne Van Ee. Roseanne enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Discover exciting and adventurous natural events, best trails, and wild places. Follow her on Facebook for more.

We live in rattlesnake country, so we might as well appreciate it.

Our Western Rattlesnakes Crotalus viridis are the only venomous snakes of our six North Okanagan snake species. Their venom is strong enough to stun and kill a mouse and they’re great rodent population controllers.

These shy, evasive reptiles would rather retreat than attack anything bigger than they can swallow. That’s why they rattle — they’re so scared that they curl up and shake. Thankfully, evolution has given them a handy warning device to keep predators away — their rattle.

Rattlesnakes are born rattleless, but like other snakes, they outgrow their scaly skin which gets very irritating until they finally rub against a rock and slide out of their old dried cover from head to tail.

Unlike other snakes though, a little piece of skin gets left on the “button” the rattler is born with. Each shedding adds another piece, until, viola! They have a rattle of dried fingernail-like material that buzzes with a chchchchch! when they’re shaking from fear.

Baby rattlers can deceivingly be mistaken for their look-a-likes — the Bull (or Gopher) snake, except the rattlers have more pronounced jaws giving their head a triangular shape.

But people are mostly fascinated and fearful of the fangs and venom.

Here’s good news: rattlesnakes would rather save their venom for hunting than for defence. That’s why they warn us. It takes about four days to rebuild the venom concentration after a meal. So they don’t want to waste it on people or other large animals.

Rattlesnakes are short-sighted. How can any animal that doesn’t see well, has no ears, nose, nor arms and legs find and capture its prey?

Snakes can “taste” scents in the air with their tongue. Nerves along its belly sense movement and rattlesnakes have pits near their eyes which are lined with cells that detect body heat. They hunt mice by following their heat trails, usually at night when the trails are most conspicuous.

When the rattler locates its prey — it strikes with a pair of hollow fangs that injects the poisonous venom (super-concentrated saliva with enzymes that help to digest tissues and proteins and act as neuromuscular paralyzers) into the prey and waits a few minutes til it’s dead.

A snake’s lower jaw comes apart in front so they can stretch their mouths wide to swallow their prey whole. Their ribs aren’t attached to any breast bone below and their muscles compress the prey into a swallowable “sausage.” Amazing!

Chances are you’ve been close to a rattler if you’ve hiked through Kalamalka Lake Park in summer.

They’re camouflage masters and can silently slip away through the grass without notice. Stay on the trails and watch where you’re going when travelling through rattlesnake habitat.

They love to bask on rocks, so watch out! On hot days, look under picnic benches, vehicles, large rocks or other shady places before getting close. Stay away from possible den sites, for your safety and theirs.

Rattlesnake Safety:

Human bites are extremely rare and often dry (no venom). If bitten, get to a hospital for an anti-venom shot quickly and calmly without increasing blood flow. DO NOT run! DO NOT use tourniquets, make cuts and suck, or anything else that could restrict blood flow or cause more damage. The toxins are destructive enough to cause pain, swelling, tissue and nerve damage at the bite site.

Pets can be taken to the closest veterinary clinic.

Get Outdoors! Our lake of many colours

This article is written for the Vernon Morning Star by Roseanne Van Ee. Roseanne enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Discover exciting and adventurous natural events, best trails, and wild places. Follow her on Facebook for more.

Kalamalka Lake is very special; it’s one of the few large marl lakes in the world. Marl lakes have high concentrations of dissolved minerals like calcium carbonate with little plankton and vegetation creating aesthetically attractive clear water with sandy or rocky bottoms.

Magic crystals (wink, wink), the calcium carbonate crystals from limestone, float up to the summer’s warm surface water acting like prisms refracting sunlight, thus giving “the lake of many colours” its vivid aquamarine, turquoise, azure, cyan, sapphire and jade tropical colours in summer that change daily. It’s a lovely indigo and emerald In winter.

Kalamalka Lake Is 16 kilometres by three km with a surface elevation of 392 metres. The average depth of the lake is 58.5m (192’) and the maximum depth is 142m (466’). Kalamalka Lake has two overland inflows; Coldstream Creek carries 80 per cent of the overland flow and from Wood Lake via Oyama canal. However, underground springs are likely a large but unknown component. Coldstream Creek strongly impacts the entire north arm during runoff and storms and has significant agricultural activity and streamside development along it. One outflow —Vernon Creek — flows from Kalamalka Lake through Polson Park and into Okanagan Lake. The flushing rate (turnover of water) for Kalamalka Lake is 55-65 years.

Historically, the Okanagan Indians called the lake “Chelootsoos” meaning “long lake cut in the middle”. This refers to the Oyama isthmus between Wood and Kalamalka Lakes. Legend had it that the narrow isthmus was created from an ancient overgrown beaver dam. In 1965, workers digging a six foot deep trench for a water pipe came across great masses of beaver-cut sticks which proved the “legend” was true. New settlers called the lake “Long Lake”. More recently it became known as Kalamalka Lake, possibly after an old Indian chief or some Hawaiian ancestry.

The lake has Kokanee, Rainbow Trout, Lake Trout, Yellow Perch, Northern Pikeminnow, Pumpkinseed, Redside Shiner, Lake Whitefish, Peamouth Chub, Largescale Sucker and Cutthroat Trout. Historically, the lake was stocked with Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Steelhead and Kokanee, but lake stocking was stopped in 1978. Some pebbly beaches are used by shore spawning Kokanee in October wherever the gravel provides protection for eggs and newly hatched fry.

I always thought it was cool to find Western Crayfish hiding under rocks in shallow bays. They look like miniature lobsters. And Freshwater Shrimp give trout pink-coloured flesh. There used to be lots of native freshwater mussels that gulls would drop on rocks to crack open. Osprey and Bald Eagles catch fish. And Kalamalka Lake provides habitat for a variety of ducks, grebes, loons, mergansers and Canada Geese.

The lake has two provincial parks, Kalamalka Lake and Kekuli Bay Provincial Parks and several beaches along its shores. Rattlesnake Point (a.k.a. Turtle’s Head) projects scenically into Kalamalka Lake. People enjoy the lake for swimming, paddling, boating, fishing and water skiing. Surrounding land uses include residential, agricultural, a major highway, beaches, campgrounds and parklands, and until recently a railway — now a world-class hiking and cycling trail. And it’s a primary source of drinking water for Greater Vernon and Lake Country.

Our uses and activities within the watershed can have a severe impact on the lake.

Please respect and enjoy this lake carefully!

Check out – The Society for the Protection of Kalamalka Lake (SPrKL)