Sagebrush cliffs, Rattlesnake Bluffs, British Columbia (Photo by Richard Doucette)
At first glance, the steep cliffs and dusty rugged slopes of Rattlesnake Bluffs may not look all that hospitable. But upon closer inspection you will see dozens of mud nests tacked onto the cliff face — these are the gravity-defying refuges of swifts and swallows.
Bighorn sheep also find sanctuary in this rugged terrain, where they come in the spring for the birth of their lambs.
And of course, there is the namesake of the bluffs: the rare western rattlesnake. The shy creature prizes exactly this kind of rocky habitat for finding crevices and caves in which to hibernate.
At only 4 hectares (9 acres), Rattlesnake Bluffs is a small but important conservation property. Located within the city limits of Kamloops, BC, the cliff-dominated property offers a safe haven for many creatures that face a shrinking range of habitat.
The story of Rattlesnake Bluffs
The bluffs stand across the road from Phil and Arlene Thiemer's autobody shop in Kamloops, BC. For more than four decades, the couple watched a multitude of wildlife use the rugged cliffs and sagebrush-covered slopes to nest, feed and escape from predators.
Avid naturalists, the Thiemers became concerned for the fate of the bluff when a similar property down the road was blasted open for a rock quarry. Taking matters into their own hands, the Thiemers purchased the property in 2006. Rattlesnake Bluffs became protected in perpetuity in 2009 when the Thiemers donated the property to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Rattlesnake Bluffs is locally celebrated for providing abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing within the Kamloops city limits. Located close to Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area, Rattlesnake Bluffs enlarges the expanse of protected lands for wide-ranging animals, such as bighorn sheep.
Biodiversity on Rattlesnake Bluffs
Yellow-bellied marmots at Rattlesnake Bluffs (Photo by Alan Vernon)
Rattlesnake Bluffs hosts an impressive collection of species, several of which are on provincial and federal endangered species lists.
Local bighorn sheep from the dewdrop herd regularly use the site to connect with different parts of their range and to forage for food during the winter. Ewes also keep their lambs on the property for protection from predators.
A small colony of yellow-bellied marmots inhabit the property and are preyed on by coyote and bobcat.
The combination of rocky terrain with sagebrush steppe provides good habitat for snakes such as western rattlesnake and great basin gophersnake.
Several birds are known to nest here, including white-throated swift, red-tailed hawk and cliff swallow.
Development is the most significant threat to Rattlesnake Bluffs. The property is adjacent to a rock quarry and gravel pit that once supported the same nature cover as Rattlesnake Bluffs.
- Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program
- Kamloops Naturalist Club
- Government of British Columbia, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
- British Columbia Conservation Foundation
- Highland Valley Enhancement Fund (as administered by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation)