Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Jasmine is the first dog I've had since I was a kid, but it didn't take long to learn that there is a definite difference in her barks. When I first heard her yesterday I thought, "meter reader at the gate". But no, it was more like a "you're new to me but I know you really don't belong here" kind of bark. And not in a cow sort of way.

So I grabbed the camera on the way out.

I saw this guy coiled up on the shop porch and striking at Jasmine, who was acting as if she didn't have the good sense to realize that a snakebite to the nose was really going to hurt.

After I tied her up, the snake relaxed a little, but he still kept a wary eye on me (and vice versa). I think that he's a gray rat snake, Pantherophis obsoleta spiloides. (The old name, Elaphe obsoleta spiloides, was apparently updated just a few years ago. It is more difficult than I would have imagined to ID snakes via the internet, so please correct me if I'm wrong about this.)

At the time I thought he must have just had a meal of several mice, but after examining more of the pictures I'm thinking it may just be his bunched up muscles that give that effect.

I tried to snap a shot when he was scoping me out with his tongue, but none of them turned out too well, and after a while he quit doing it.

His scales were fascinating - here you can see the orange skin underneath them.

I tried to prod him into leaving, but by that time he'd become too relaxed and didn't want to leave. So I picked him up on a long long stick to transport him to the bramble where the rats hang out. He was pretty heavy. About 6 feet long I think. There were a few attempts to wriggle off the stick, but he seemed fairly happy to slither off into the brush once I got him there.


maikopunk said...

You are braver than me! I hope that was a good zoom lens... I would not have stuck around long enough for closeups!
Amazing shot of the scales btw.

jerry said...


sugarcreekfarm said...

"And not in a cow sort of way."

Love that :-)

You are braver than me - I don't think "camera" would have even entered my mind.

Eva said...

Gorgeous! But if it had been me, the image of the snake would have been about one centimeter wide :-)

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Stunning photos. I don't trust myself to know one snake from another, so I wouldn't have been as brave, but I am so happy you were.
You certainly have a wide variety of wild life. All beautiful, too. I love the digital world-- grab the camera, life is happening!

Amy said...

And I thought the snapping turtle shots were brave!

The city folks up here in Boston could learn a thing or two from you. I once saw a woman here cross the road to avoid walking near a raccoon!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You are definitely a brave soul....either that or *very* good at snake ID.

Those pictures are amazing, I have never seen a snake that huge in the wild, I think it would have scared me silly!


Rurality said...

Thanks y'all. Well yes I was definitely using the zoom for this one. :)

I knew it wasn't a poisonous snake. Poisonous ones here are either coral snakes or pit vipers. It's definitely not the brightly colored coral snake, and I knew it wasn't a pit viper because of the eyes. Pit vipers have slit-like eyes and this snake had round eyes. Plus I know what the poisonous snakes around here look like. (Copperheads, Water Moccasins, and various Rattlesnakes.)

But I think some snakes can still inflict a painful bite so I wasn't going to get too close.

After he didn't appear perturbed in the least when I was trying to shoo him off with the stick, I decided he wasn't very aggressive. And when I was carrying him, I was prepared to drop the stick and run if he'd started moving up it!

Kelli, I heard the "those neighbor cows are over here again" bark just last week. That was right before she chased them through the garden...

Amy I would avoid a raccoon too, but only because so many are rabid here. :)

It must be one of those peak wildlife periods... I saw a groundhog on the road today. He actually looked both ways for traffic and stopped when he saw me coming! After I passed by, he ambled on across the road.

Charles said...

Actually their bites don't really hurt much at all. I've been bitten by constrictors lots of times. Not a big deal. And none ever became infected. If you don't have mice in the house, now we know why. I feel like I've asked you what you shoot with before but i don't remember your answer. is it an SLR? really cool photos.

Wayne said...

Wow, that's a lovely animal. Do rat snakes eat chicken eggs?

I've read that snakes' mouths are incredibly clean (no food particles, perhaps) and that infections seldom result from a bite.

As our host says, the trick to snakes is to know which ones in your area are poisonous - this is knowledge that's amazingly easy to acquire. Everyone else is ok.

(And, though controversial to many, I ran across a timber rattler in the woods last spring and wouldn't even think of killing it, for a number of reasons.)

Rurality said...

Well maybe I am just not remembering correctly... I could have sworn that I read somewhere that some snakebites, while not venomous, can be painful. Maybe I'm thinking about spiders.

Yeah I really keep putting off that camera faq, huh? I've got a Sony Mavica CD1000. A paltry 2.1 megapixels, but it's good enough for a blog I guess. :) I do love the mini CDs for storage, but that $&#^@% focus is driving me crazy lately. I can't see well enough to manually focus anymore. Maybe you are also familiar with that at this stage?

Wayne, if I have correctly identified it, then yes they do apparently eat chicken eggs. He hasn't found the coop yet though... I'd know from lack of eggs if he had. They eat baby birds too, but since there aren't red-cockaded woodpeckers in this area I'm not going to worry about it.

Hubby did kill a rattler that was trying to get into our old house. He shooed it away, but it kept trying to come back, so he killed it. They are not normally around houses, so he may have had a problem anyway.

swamp4me said...

Great pics! We don't have the gray rat snakes here in NC, so it was nice to see a good picture of a live one.

Snake bites can hurt if the snake is serious. My eastern king snake made a feeding strike to my hand last summer. He gobbled my ring finger up right down to my hand. Plus he coiled around my hand and began to squeeze. Took five minutes to get him off -- all the while he was working his jaws and trying to swallow. It was not comfortable :) With my husband's help, I got him off my hand and neither of us incurred any lasting harm.

Reptiles actually have pretty germy mouths and infection from a snake bite is a definite possibility. But a good wash with plain old soap and hot water will usually ward off infection.

Zanne said...

Oh gosh I hate snakes! Thankfully we don't have many snakes in Illinois. It's been years and years since I've even seen a garter snake. My time in Texas....well, that's a different story. More snakes than in the Bible and tarantulas the size of salad plates!
Great, brave pictures.

Rurality said...

Swampy - eeek! Crazy snake. I keep imagining him with a big Swampy-shaped lump in his middle, like the snake from The Little Prince. I can hear you inside muttering, "This is not awesome"!

Zanne, they really only scare me if they surprise me. I do try to keep out of snaky areas though. Water moccasins are the ones I worry most about since I've seen them act aggressively before.

Hick said...

I'm with Indiana Jones...I hate snakes...gives me the creeps just looking at your beautiful pictures. We have diamond back rattlers here along with King Snakes (which are not poisonous).

You are a very brave woman.

Rurality said...

Hick I was hoping this post wasn't going to make you run screaming from my blog! :)

BTW, I debated on whether to go with the Harry Potter title or with "Snake, it's a snake" from the Weebl cartoon I love so much (Badger badger badger). Nobody ever gets my little jokes. Except my husband, which is why I love him. :)

Maktaaq said...

MaikoPunk and I had a whole discussion about your amazing snake last night!

Your blog is amazing!

Rurality said...

Thanks Maktaaq, tune in tomorrow for another exciting snake adventure! How's that for a teaser. :)

jenni said...

Your blog is often better than National Geographic! Those snake photos are wildly fantastic! They really are beautiful creatures in their sorta dark, creepy way. Those swallowing the egg shots are just WOW! I like the unusual dogwood too, it almost looks like something you'd see under a microscope.

jenni said...

No, it was the bumblebee messages that look microscopic, not the dogwood (which was cool too).

Rurality said...

Thanks Jenni. I do think he is beautiful. Sometimes the angle makes him look sort of evil - something to do with the eyes I guess. But despite all the "striking the heel" business, they are just critters trying to survive, like all the rest.

BTW that flower, the foxglove, is where they originally got the heart medicine digitalis.

Ron Sullivan said...

"They eat baby birds too, but since there aren't red-cockaded woodpeckers in this area I'm not going to worry about it."

Keeping tree-climbing snakes out of the nest is why red-cockadeds whack the pine trees' bark around their nest holes so the irritating sap bleeds out.

Oh -- and now I've got the badger chant stuck in my head. Sheesh.

Rurality said...

Hey Ron, I've seen them doing just that! There are some at the Talladega National Forest that we've visited a few times.

The only way to get rid of the badger chant is to start the Kenya one. :)

Rurality said...

In case anyone else is wondering what all this talk about badgers and Kenya is about, see here.

fred said...

What often makes non-poisonous snake bites painful is the almost unavoidable reflex to pull the arm or hand away suddenly when the fangs stick. This makes a tiny puncture a more serious tear. Plus I think for most folks, there is the fear component to a snake bite, even for one that you are PRETTY SURE is not poisonous. I think. Or is it?

Anonymous said...

If that was a gray rat snake then it was really big! i have handled a 4ft gray rat and a know how it feels to be bitten! your pictures are amazing!! I wish my camera would take those kinds of pictures!