It’s not often you hear a snake described as “beloved.”
But that’s exactly how everyone felt about Sophie, a 10-year-old gopher snake and ambassador for the species.
Sophie resided at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta for more than a decade. The 7th generation captive-born snake proved people and snakes could live peacefully together.
But the snake suffered recent health problems, including a devastating kidney tumour.
The facility announced Sophie’s passing May 4.
“There have been countless occasions where Sophie helped our visitors to overcome fears or misconceptions about snakes,” Coreen Putman, the centre’s manager said in a statement. “It was amazing to see her help visitors be more comfortable with local snakes while understanding their role in our community.”
Calling her “dedicated public servant,” the facility said Sophie “delighted” thousands of visitors and helped dispel “myths about snakes” since her birth in July, 2007.
Well-wishers are asked to drop notes at the Nature Centre, which will be placed on display.
The outpouring is already being felt online.
Chelsea Doherty shared her sorrow on Facebook.
“Sophie helped me to feel less afraid of snakes and watching her with the staff truly did show her personality and gentleness. My daughter will be very sad to hear as well.”
Lisa Grahame wrote that her family had visited Sophie for as long as she had been at the centre.
“When she was little she would try to get into my kid’s sleeves and pockets. She will be missed.”