Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Snake in the Grass

It's said that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – to which I could also add that a snake in the hand is worth one bite. Nerodia sipedon can be somewhat ill-tempered and tends to bite more readily than our other local serpents.

Not to worry, though, the Northern Water Snake is not venomous, and this individual was small, only about 30 cm long, so the bite amounted to little more than a couple of scratches on my finger. Naturally any wild animal will try to defend itself if it feels threatened. The snake was doing its best to flee and the bite was a result of my capturing and subsequent carelessness in handling it.

The snake is still somewhat riled up ...

... but perfectly safe to hold – no fangs whatsover.

After a minute or so it became accustomed to being handled and didn't try to bite or escape any more.

Looks like it had something for lunch. In contrast to the brown camouflage patterning on its upper side, the patterns on the belly of the snake are actually beautiful and pleasing to the eye.

After I released the snake it was in no hurry to leave, at one point it was trying to crawl into and take shelter in the cuff of my pants.

There were several Northern Water Snakes out and about in the vicinity of the marsh, and one individual was a good meter in length. This one, about 60 cm long, was trying its best to look inconspicuous.

Our most commonly encountered snake is the Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). Here's a lucky shot of that marvelous forked tongue that allows the snake to smell which direction a scent is coming from.

The color and patterning of Garter Snakes can vary – some have reddish-brown sides, and the dark stripes of this youngster are broken by pale spots.

The following two photos were taken in Presqu'ile Provincial Park on a warm day in mid-March. Garter snakes mate when they emerge from hibernation, and they do it as a group with several males attempting to mate with one female. There were three groups within a few feet of one another and six or eight snakes in this particular cluster (it was kind of tough to get an accurate count), with snakes constantly going into or leaving the mating ball.