Saturday, August 10, 2013

Serpent Shenanigans - Animal Adventures with Andrea

About two months ago one of our neighbors got a snake in her garage.  She flipped out about it and my mom called me for help.  Being fifty minutes away and needing to attend a writing meeting before heading home, I was unavailable to come help catch it.  Then they wanted me to identify it long-distance.

My mom: "It's tan with brown spots.  Could it be a rattle snake?"
Me:  "Um, maybe?  Does it have a rattle on it's tail?"
Mom:  "We can't tell."
Me:  "Then I can't tell either!  I'll need a picture."

They managed to take a couple pictures and I felt pretty pleased with myself that I could identify it as a bull snake (turns out I was slightly wrong) from the little picture on the phone.  I told them it was safe, but not to get bitten just in case I was wrong.  After much panic, a drywall bucket, and a child's butterfly net, the snake was contained and they kept it around so I could take a look at it when I got home.

It was a pretty, pretty little boy gopher snake about eighteen inches long.  Easy to misidentify as a bull snake from a tiny picture since bull snakes are a sub-species of gopher snake.  These are my favorite snakes on the planet.  Dragon snakes are awesome too, but bull snakes are so much fun.  They have reticulated scales like a venomous snake, which are so cool to touch, and an attractive pattern with a beautiful tail.  I love their colors and dangerous-snake attitude.  They're big pushovers, though, unless they're super cranky.  They pretend they're a rattle snake and threaten to bite until they think they can get away.  Then they just run, and once you get them in your hands they stop bluffing and either settle down or try to get away.

My mom got scared when I put my hand in the bucket with him, since he postured, hissed really loud, and rattled his tail against the ground, but within moments I was holding him and he slithered around in my arms.  We kept him for a couple days so we could show him to some kids and my co-workers, and then I let him go near my work.  By the last day he was fed up with everything and bit me every time my hand got near him.  I learned how to tell the difference between his bluffing and his actual "I am so killing you right now" behavior.  It was interesting.  When he bluffed he was posed to strike, but kept lower and pulled back when my hand got near.  When he was going to bite he lifted higher and tracked my hand, following it and getting closer until he struck.

I'd been wondering what it felt like to get bitten by a snake, and now I know.  To my surprise, I found getting bitten by a spider hurts a lot worse.  When he bit me, it felt like that moment when you realized your skin split and bled due to dryness, but is done and just stings the slightest bit, except on in a microscopic area and the pain is gone instantaneously.  I thought it was pretty cool, but I'm weird.

Here, have some pictures!

For size reference.  He wasn't too big.  Bull snakes can get up to eight feet long, depending on the snake.  I'm not sure about gopher snakes, but they'd be similar.

Check out the narrow oval-ish/thin triangle silhouette of his head!  Rattle and some other venomous snakes like vipers have heads more shaped like an equilateral triangle that's fat at the base since their venom glands take up lots of space.  That's probably the key difference to telling a gopher/bull snake apart from a rattler since they try to imitate them so well.

He's so cute!  I love the blushing on his scales.

We only had him around for three days, but he managed to cause a ton of drama from his box.  A stupid ton.  I wish I had gotten more and better pictures.  It's hard to hold a snake and get pictures of it at the same time.  No one else was willing to handle him.

And that is one animal adventure story!  I've got some more coming up for you, but only a couple of them have pictures.


A Ro said...

He's pretty!
And I would have held him for you.
And smaller than I expected. So much drama for such a small critter. Maybe drama comes in small packages? XD

A Ro said...

Seriously! Drama must get compacted in density and react bigger the smaller the package is.
Oh goodie! I'll have to magically transport you to me next time I catch one! :D

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