Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why'd it have to be snakes?

One thing about it for sure; there are certainly snakes on the Flint Hills prairie.  As a general rule, I don't mind snakes, but I don't appreciate it when they fail to calmly announce their presence in my vicinity.  In my garden, they have a tendency to appear suddenly near my ankles. During the next few seconds after these encounters, when I’ve spontaneously broken the Olympic and World Records for the high jump, with my legs churning frantically to gain traction from the air, and while the snake is making all haste to head in an opposite direction, I realize what I’ve seen and ascertain whether or not it was a real threat and start becoming curious about it instead of scared. At heart, I'm a collector and cataloguer and I like to know what species share my garden with me.

The snakes in my vicinity are a gregarious group, and luckily, although there are a number of poisonous snakes listed as possibly present in my area, in ten years of living here I've only seen (or heard) the non-poisonous ones.  I worry about rattlesnakes alot, though, particularly since a great local reference, Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas by Joseph T. Collins, makes a point of saying that "No one should rely on any rattlesnake to warn them by rattling, since many rattlesnakes never rattle until stepped on or otherwise molested."  Thanks a whole lot, Joseph, I've slept well ever since hearing that information.

The beauty pictured at the right is a Common Garter Snake that I found when I was moving a rose bush.  This cheeky fellow was biting at my shovel as I attempted to get underneath the bush.  He later apologized and became a frequent bystander as I did other gardening chores, slithering up to give his unsolicited opinion as I watered, mulched, or weeded.  I finally learned not to jump in panic if I saw orange and movement in my peripheral vision and the snake did his part by never again biting at my shovel.   I believe the same snake lived in the garden for three years, although I don't know where he takes his winter vacations to, but this season I've only seen offspring, so the patriarch may have moved on where his opinions were more valued. 

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