Monday, June 2, 2008

Garden Helper Saved

A friend down the road wanted to borrow my fish trap, the one I had made to catch goldfish in our ponds. I had put it under the porch last fall. When I started to pull it out I noticed something moving inside. It was the largest hog nose snake I had ever seen. Most of these kind of snakes only are 10 to 12" long. The largest I've seen to date is maybe 16". This one was close to two feet long. Thank goodness I looked in there when I did as I would have hated for him to have died, as this is truly a valuable garden friend to have.

They are also known as a Spreading Adder and I've heard some city folks call them a Texas Cobra. They are a great friend to have in the garden. They eat almost nothing but bugs with crickets and snails being at the top of the list. What more could you want out of a garden pal. Well, I guess you could want it to not make you soil yourself when you reach into the plants for something and have one crawl across your hand.

Unlike the small rattle snake my wife found while picking bell peppers a few years ago, the hog nose has no poison or even any real teeth in which to defend itself. So it uses every other source at its disposal. When you find one of these snakes you just have to mess with it a little bit so you can see the whole show. Believe me, it's worth taking the time. I had to call my wife, Lyn, so she could see the show. The first thing they do is spread their head out wide, like a cobra, to see if that frightens you off. Then they spray poop out and stink up the area. You hardly want to stay around then. Certainly no predator would want to eat it then. But---if that doesn't work they roll over and play dead. I mean really play dead, and they are good at it too. Unlike Opossums, that actually faint instead of playing dead, a Hog nose is playing dead. They roll on their back, writhe as if in pain, tongue comes out and they go limp. It's dead, anybody can see it's dead. That's what snakes look like when they are dead. But if you grab it and roll it over on it's stomach, it will immediately roll back over on its back. If you go off a little ways, but keep an eye on it and you will see its head come up to look around. If you move, down goes the head. Back to dead.

I could never make this one play dead for Lyn though. He liked the aggressive approach better. I moved him to the corn bed where he would have better cover so the dogs wouldn't find him. You have to take care of your gardening buddies you know. Lyn was worried that it would eat her frogs like the ribbon snakes do that live around the ponds. She just can't stand to hear the frogs screaming when a ribbon snake has one in its mouth. She goes out and grabs the snake to make it let go of the frog. She does the same thing with our giant bull snake that lives around here when he gets into a cottontail nest. She won't grab him, as he's nearly eight feet long, and will strike at her. So, she gets her a little stick and whacks him till he leaves. But he's usually already eaten a couple of the babies before she gets there so he already has a meal. He eats a lot of her frogs, too. But he's too big and fast for her to stop him from eating them. It's not like she doesn't have enough frogs. When you walk through the shady parts of the garden there are frogs going every which way. With this many frogs jumping, it confuses the dogs so much that they don't even try to catch them anymore. But they are also on the garden pals list as they fan out from the ponds every evening to scour the gardens for bugs. The snakes, the frogs, the toads and the masses of grand daddy long legs, they are all garden pals, and we are glad we have them.

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