|Scotophis obsoletus, Western Rat Snake|
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
One never knows, do we? Last Friday started out as a normal day, but it certainly ended with a bang. After my workday, Mrs. ProfessorRoush and I slipped away for a bite to eat, and then she went on home to walk our ancient Brittany Spaniel while I stopped back to check on a resident doing a surgery.
I can testify that Mrs. ProfessorRoush was entirely normal when we parted, but twenty minutes later when I pulled into the garage, I was met at the door to my car with a disheveled, shouting caricature of my wife and a very excited Brittany. At least I think it was my wife for she was moving so quickly her outline was blurry. It seems that on their walk, they had encountered the first of this summer's snake denizens.
As I listened and tried to calm Mrs. ProfessorRoush, all the while wondering if the garage and car windows were going to shatter from either decibel level or pitch, I understood clearly what detectives and FBI agents are up against when they discuss the unreliability of eyewitnesses. If I had taken Mrs. ProfessorRoush's account as gospel, this particular snake had coiled up to a height approaching ten feet, threatened to strike at my Brittany with bared fangs, and then chased them out of the yard.
I know that I've led many of the readers of this blog to believe that I'm also scared of snakes, but that is not entirely true. Yes, I don't care to have them pop up at my feet or strike at my shovel from underneath a perennial I'm transplanting, but my panic episodes at such times are temporary and only rarely results these days in running clear past township or county borders. I have been so desensitized by the number of reptiles on the Kansas Flint Hills that I certainly still jump, but then I calm down while I'm waiting for gravity to reacquaint the earth with my feet, and I rationally determine the type of snake and the relative danger to my garden visitors (pet or human).
This particular snake was (is) about a six foot long and 2 inch diameter Western Rat Snake, Scotophis obsoletus (or is it Elaphe obsoletus? Or Pantherophis obsoletus?), and it is a constrictor, not a biter. I did not, as counseled by Mrs. ProfessorRoush, "get a shotgun and blow it to smithereens." I have a strict species-ism hierarchy in my garden, hating rodents more than snakes, so I welcome any of the latter benign hunters. Additionally, I have yet to see a poisonous snake in my garden and I have theorized that if a nice, big rat snake is clearing out the hunting grounds, I have less chance of hearing a rattle next to my feet as I trim the roses. A snake this big will also occasionally catch and give a rabbit a love hug, so this guy may even help me to raise some lettuce this year. Besides, according to my references, the Western Rat Snake has a home range of approximately 30 acres, so I'm not very likely to see him again soon.
All of the proceeding thoughts weave a nice rationalization, but it doesn't wash at all with Mrs. ProfessorRoush, who prefers all slithering insects and reptiles to be in the process of decay. Not even the chance for fresh lettuce can dissuade her, and I now have some work to do to restore my gardening knight in shining armor image at home. C'est la vie.