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Posts Tagged ‘snakes’

Nova Scotia garter snake

Often described as ‘cool’ and ‘cute,’ snakes were a precious discovery in the yard when my sons were young.  My grandsons were just as smitten recently when their dad was able to capture one I had spotted swimming across a large vernal pool in the woods.

garter snake

This Maritime Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis pallidula was in its Unstriped phase.  These garter snakes also have Black and Striped phases.

garter snake scales

It seemed fairly non-aggressive according to my son, who’s been bitten by garter snakes in the past.  It was pretty compliant and even stuck out its forked tongue for the camera.

garter snake mouth and tongue

As I expected, there were tears shed when it was released back into the wild.  Why can’t we keep it?  I want to keep it as a pet! Though they can be fairly friendly, garter snakes do give off a bad scent in captivity or when they feel threatened.   When will we ever find another?  I’ve come across  a few already in the woods this year, so there’s a good chance we’ll see another soon.

garter snake in grass

In the meantime, we’ll let this one enjoy its freedom in the summer sun. Happy trails snake. (Just don’t freak me out by getting under my feet in the woods!)

For more on garter snakes, see Garden Garter and Snake Berries

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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Why did the snake cross the road?  Didn’t it feel the vibrations from oncoming traffic? 

Hey, do I look worried?

This maritime garter snake managed to survive being run over by a truck, luckily slipping between the tires.  Why was it willing to risk life and limb to get to the other side?  Was it looking for something tasty to eat? Snake berries perhaps?

For years I’ve heard both adults and children talk of ‘snake berries.’  Could these be berries that were frequently eaten by snakes? 

As children, my sons and their friends used the term to describe the fruit of the bunchberry plant, shown above.  It seemed that only the daring among them had ever tried tasting these snake berries.  My friend Sandy thought snake berries were blue. Others who knew of snake berries weren’t able to describe the plant in any detail. 

After a bit of digging, I discovered that the term is used to describe any berry of questionable edibility.  So, if you are in the woods, and see a berry that you’re not sure you can eat, you might choose to call it a snake berry.  All snake berries are therefore considered poisonous.  By the way, bunchberries are edible.  They’re bland with a large pit, but edible nonetheless.

Since the berries shown above are unknown to me and I’m not sure if they’re safe to eat, I’ll call them snake berries until I can learn more about them.  And since all snakes are carnivores, there’s no way that they would eat this or any other berry.

So, as to why the snake crossed the road… in Cow Bay, there can only be one answer:  it was the pheasants’ day off!

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The colder weather and accompanying snow this past week has slowed down the activity of cold-blooded creatures.  This little garter snake was found cuddled up under a rock in the mint garden.

It wasn’t moving very quickly, so I was able to pick it up and place it in a container for closer observation.  Over the years, my sons captured numerous snakes under the rocks in our yard.  We’ve also come across garter snakes in the woods and among the wild rose bushes.  Last year I almost stepped on one that was sunning itself on the front steps.

Garter snakes are known to make good pets.  One year, we kept a large garter in a terrarium over the summer months.  They do give off a scent after a period in captivity so it was eventually released back into the wild.

Garter snakes are ovoviviparous, meaning that a mother carries the eggs internally but offspring emerge live with no sign of the shell at birth.  Garters are independent of their mothers as soon as they’re born.  One of my neighbors would frequently dig into a mass of newly born garters while working in her garden.  In northern areas, garters will also congregate in a massive ball with other snakes prior to hibernation.

Garters are mildly venomous.  My youngest son was bitten by them as a boy with no adverse effects.

These snakes are the most widely distributed reptiles in North America, likely due to the fact that they’re not picky eaters. Worms, amphibians, mice, young birds, bugs, fish and eggs are all acceptable fare.

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meandering river

Along the Salt Marsh Trail, it’s easy to see how waterways have formed over time throughout the grassy areas in the middle of the marsh.  These waterways fill up and recede with the ebb and flow of the tides.  Often, ducks can be found wading in these little rivers. 

Over time, rivers of water will form into a shape called a meander as they wear away at the soil along the edges.  These meandering rivers are often noticed from the air, but can also be appreciated from ground level, depending on our vantage point.

Eastern Smooth Green SnakeThe meander shape looks a lot like a snake.  In fact, snakes use a meandering movement to get from one place to another.  I think it’s this movement that gives many of us ‘the creeps’ whenever we are surprised by a snake in the garden.  However, the poor snake can’t help how it moves.  It’s just doing what comes naturally.

Pictured at left is the bright and beautiful Eastern Smooth Green Snake, found in the Cow Bay area.  It’s so strikingly colorful, that it looks like it belongs in a tropical rainforest.  I haven’t seen a snake yet this season, but managed to see quite a few Maritime Garter Snakes in the yard last year.

The meander is one of several interesting shapes that are found repeatedly in nature.  These shapes often form exquisite patterns and many are building blocks for larger things.  In the Saturdays between now and mid-summer’s eve, I’ll explore a number of other shapes found in nature as a lead-up to a Summer Scavenger Hunt.  Details of the hunt to be disclosed June 20th. There will be prizes.

For more information on the spring scavenger hunt hosted by Kathy at Opening the door, walking outside, see Let’s have a scavenger hunt!  My spring hunt photos and submission can be found at A Spring Scavenger Hunt .

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