Monday, July 7, 2008

Hunker surprise

Rain showers today seemed to cool things down a little, not a lot, but a little. It seems a few degrees drop can make a lot of difference when it comes to the desire to work in the garden. I wasn't going to do a lot, just pot some Mexican petunias for a friend. With the rain, I thought that potting them wouldn't be as traumatic to the plants as a hot dry day. After gathering up pots,trowel and a bucket of dirt, I was ready to work. I no more than hunkered down to dig and had to jump back, nearly soiling myself in the process. Right where I wanted to hunker was a six foot long Texas rat snake-----skin. When you're not ready for it, a snake skin looks a lot like a snake. And although I'm about the least scared of snakes as anyone I know, I still don't want to hunker on one. After calming down a little, I looked it over and could see what kind of snake it was. Actually I was familiar with the snake that shed the skin. He is the smaller of the two Texas rat snakes that live around the gardens. The other is close to seven feet long. The skin was shed perfectly... right to the head. Even the eyes and mouth were perfect. So, I laid it on a lily pad for a good back ground and took a picture.

With all this dry weather we've been having it has caused the animals to gravitate to water, and with five ponds we have been seeing lots of animals including lots of snakes. I've only seen one Hognosed snake before this year and have seen five this year. There seems to be even more Ribbon snakes and Garter snakes than in other years as well.

Other than the occasional surprise, I really like seeing the snakes. I think it's a sign that we have done things right here and they should be as welcome as the more desirable wild life. Besides that, I must admit, I just like snakes. My wife, on the other hand, doesn't like snakes. She isn't afraid of them, she just doesn't like them. It's mainly because they eat the Leopard frogs and the baby cottontail rabbits. When she hears a frog squeaking she will hunt it down because she knows a ribbon snake has got it in it's mouth. She grabs the ribbon snake by the tail and shakes it to make it turn loose. She knows they eat the frogs but says they need to do it when she's not outside.

She knows her snakes well and when she finds a poisonous one she gets the dogs inside and calls me to handle it. Even if they are poisonous I will scoop them into a bucket and haul them down the road to a less populous area. But sometimes they are too big to work with and have to be killed. And it seems she finds all the poisonous snakes. This is one she found a couple of years ago that had to be killed. This snake was way to big to handle and was very aggresive.

It truly pained me to have to kill this snake as she was a real beauty but she was just to deadly to have around. On the other hand, we have some beautiful and not dangerous ones that I don't mind having, like this little guy. It is a ribbon snake and we have a lot of them.

Then we also have the Hognose snakes. When you find one of them you just have to play with them. They spread thier hood out like a cobra and rattle their tail in the leaves to scare you. If that doesn't work they spray poop out everywhere so you won't bother them.

If that doesn't work then they just die for you and you won't have to hurt it. Not really, they just play dead and they are really good at it. They roll over on their back and even their tongue sticks out. You can turn them over on their belly and they will turn right back over on their backs because that's how dead snakes are supposed to lay. He looks dead but he's not. A few minutes after I walked off he rolled over and went on his merry way.

When you see a snake from a distance it is a nice experience, one most people don't get to enjoy often in their lives. But to nearly sit on one or even the skin is still startling even if you are not afraid of them. I am just going to be more careful where I hunker from now on.


Annie in Austin said...

I like looking at this post and admire your herpetological skills, but if something like that showed up while I was gardening, it would freak me out completely. I'm okay with the little foot-long kind that live in my NW Austin neighborhood.

After I read your post I searched for hog nosed snakes on YouTube and saw the cobra imitation.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

What beautiful snake photos. That snakeskin is gorgeous. I like snakes, too, and I when I see one I feel the same way you do...that maybe we're doing something right here for the snakes to survive. Of course, in central Austin I don't find as many snakes in my garden as you do. I did find a ribbon snake once but it had been dead awhile and the ants were cleaning up.

Thanks so much for sharing your snakes. Not only do I find it an antidote to an overexposure of cute cat blogs but I think it's important to show all different kinds of beauty. Not enough people appreciate our snakes.

Carol said...

I came "visiting" after seeing MSS 'twitter' about your post. I have yet to see a snake in any of my central Indiana gardens, and hope I don't. I'm not sure what my reaction will be and I don't want to find out. Reading about them is as close as I care to get.

Kathy said...

I see snakes in my garden. Occasionally they startle me, but they don't scare me. I have never caught them eating, but there are certainly enough voles and chipmunks around here to keep them well fed.

I am glad they are there, but I haven't been interested enough to find out what kind they are.

I also came as a result of MSS's Twitter.

Bonnie said...

We found a snakeskin in our front yard this week- that's about as close to a snake as I need to get. Although every so often, I find a dead garden snake in the bottom of the pool.
Great pictures. That dead one (the real dead one) is huge!