Wednesday I set a new personal record and caught five snakes in two hours. It was cloudy and cool for most of the day on Wednesday before getting very sunny and warm around 3pm. I got a text from a friend while I was at work telling me that she was moving books in her shop and put her hand on a snake that was coiled up on the shelf. She was too creeped out to go back in and asked if I could pop by after work and find the snake. Well, duh, of course!! After a search of the shop, I came up empty handed so her husband asked me to help him move some sheet metal outside of the shop. Right off the bat I found an eastern rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis).
My friend’s youngest child was with her so I decided to turn my catch into a teachable moment. My friend is scared to death of snakes (though five years of friendship has really helped increase her tolerance) but she doesn’t want her kids to share her fear. After some hesitant moments and a lot of squealing, little Tess (3yrs old) decided that snakes are pretty neat.
I released this snake and decided to help my friend move her books because she was still so nervous about finding the snake that she’d touched earlier. Sure enough, I found it a couple of shelves down. It was another eastern rat snake!! It was a juvenile, very dehydrated, and still showing the faintest signs of adolescent markings. This time, my friend’s older kids wanted to join in the fun.
I released the little snake outside and lifted up a piece of board near the edge of the woods. This time I wasn’t expecting to find anything but it already felt like a lucky day so why not? To my surprise, I flipped a little worm snake (Carphophis amoenus)!
I was on the best snake streak I’ve ever had. So you can imagine my delight when, on the way back from the woods, my friend spotted a much larger eastern rat snake basking in the garden!
I was getting ready to leave, thinking I’d caught every snake that I possibly could when I found a black racer (Coluber constrictor) sunning itself in the space where the sheet metal lay earlier (the site of the first rat snake).
Now, this snake and I have some history. This is actually the THIRD TIME I have caught this exact snake. My friend affectionately named it Richard Simmons–she thinks giving snakes adorable and innocuous names helps with the fear–last summer after I caught it for the first time. Racers tend to be a bit territorial and this one was on its way back to its usual spot under the sheet metal. However, my friend’s husband and I had already moved the sheet metal so the snake was very confused. After I released it, it slithered away and then came back, nosing all around in search of its home.
If you play the video, you can see that the snake is very defensive but not really inclined to flee. Most folks don’t know that most snakes rattle their tails when threatened; it’s not just a special quirk that belongs to rattlesnakes. I felt pretty bad leaving old Richard Simmons homeless like that and I hoped he (or she) found another place to hang his hat.
So, in conclusion, Wednesday was awesome! This might be a big snake year (some people are predicting that it’ll be the “worst” snake year but for me it’s the best kind!) and I’m looking forward to flipping many many more.