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Snakes slither into Manitoba senior living complex

INWOOD, Man. -- After working hard and raising 10 kids, retired 73-year-old Mabel Anderson has a new vocation -- snake hunter. "That's my killings there," she said, pointing to a small pile of red-sided garter snake corpses near a door to Inwood ...

INWOOD, Man. -- After working hard and raising 10 kids, retired 73-year-old Mabel Anderson has a new vocation -- snake hunter.

"That's my killings there," she said, pointing to a small pile of red-sided garter snake corpses near a door to Inwood Manor.

"I'm scared of them," said the widow, who is living near the world's largest red-sided garter snake dens in Narcisse, Man., an hour's drive northeast of Winnipeg.

Her independent living facility is infested with the critters twice a year. Each spring, tens of thousands of snakes emerge from their warm limestone caves underground to mate, then scamper around above ground before returning to their dens in the fall.

"It's a snakepit," Anderson said as one slithered toward the foundation of the building before it disappeared.

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"I check under my bed, I check my bedding. It's not fun for us," said Anderson.

In her suite, Anderson recently found three snakes in the baseboard heater, one on a rug and one in a laundry basket.

"It was a shock," said the woman with heart problems.

Next to her fridge, she has a hammer and a bent knife sharpener.

"I broke it killing snakes," said the soft-spoken great-grandmother who had dainty sequined slippers on her feet.

She's fed up with the snake surprises in her suite and took action because the problem wasn't being addressed. Anderson knew it wouldn't make her popular.

"Everybody's mad at me. They say, 'You shouldn't kill something so beautiful.'"

In 2000, the Narcisse Snake Mortality Advisory Group installed a series of small tunnels under the highway and barrier fencing to guide migrating snakes into these tunnels.

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But nothing is guiding them away from Inwood Manor, where Anderson fears and reviles them.

Anderson, who lost her husband to cancer four years ago, has lived at Inwood Manor for two years. She hopes the snake problem is solved soon.

"I've got no resources to move anymore."

Sarah Monkman just moved into Inwood Manor last week. Her husband won't move in until the snakes move out, she said.

"He's so deathly scared of snakes," Monkman laughed, holding up a harmless snake for a photo.

One resident who moved there in May said either the snakes go, or she goes.

"I had one in my kitchen last night when I was trying to make my supper," said Ann O'Malley.

The snake scare haunted her for the rest of the night.

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"In bed, every time the blanket touched my leg, I thought, 'Snake!' "

In the spring, two big balls of live snakes, ripe for mating season, were found in the crawlspace under the manor, said O'Malley, a retired bartender.

"I'd walk down the hall and gag from the smell," she said.

O'Malley has complained to the administration of the 55-plus building, her MP and provincial member of the legislature.

"Nothing has been done," she said outside the back door of the facility, where intruding snakes had been stopped dead in their tracks on the pavement.

No one from the facility could be reached for comment.

Distributed by The Canadian Press.

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