Saturday, June 12, 2010

Snakes, snakes, and more snakes...

It's been a very eventful two weeks! We have had so many snake encounters I don't even know where to start! I was walking the dogs when I suddenly noticed what I thought was a stick in the middle of the sidewalk, then I saw the tail end go straight up as one of the dogs approached and my heart started racing. I was certain it must be a rattler. I ran to the house with the dogs and grabbed my camera and when I returned, the snake was still there. It turned out to be a rat snake. My stepson and I followed it to some trees. It tried to climb the tree, then tried to climb into a hole in a tree stump and that's when I decided to stop taking pictures. I wasn't trying to frighten it, but it was a beautiful snake and I wanted pictures to share with my grandchildren.

A few days later, we were getting ready to leave for an appointment when we noticed the tail of a snake slip into the garage. This one was a bull snake, and he did not want to leave the garage! Bull snakes love birds and bird eggs, and we had a bird's nest with very noisy baby sparrows in a box on the top shelf just beneath where the snake was coiled up and hissing. The mama bird came in with some bugs while we were trying to coax the snake back out of the garage. The snake snapped at us a few times, but eventually returned to the forest.

The next morning, we woke up to a ruckus in the garage. I was afraid the snake had returned, but it was the baby birds leaving their nest. A few of the babies appeared to be a little immature for leaving the nest, but I think their parents might have pushed them out a little early because they were worried about the same thing I was--that the bull snake might return. The last baby fell out of the box and to the floor, but she wasn't injured. I put her back in the box and mama brought her some food. We ran our errands and when we returned, the last bird had left the box. They are still in the trees in the backyard. We seem them on the picnic table every day eating bird seed. It's so sweet to see multiple generations of bird families.

A few days ago, I did something I know I should not do--I went outside at dusk to fill the bird seed containers. I had the dogs with me and thank goodness I left them behind the fence. I was by the back forest, raising my foot to step beneath the cup that the doves like to eat from when I realized that beneath me was the largest snake I have ever seen. I slowly stepped backward, assuming it was another rat snake. I said hello and carefully walked backward to the yard, then ran the dogs inside and fetched my husband and my camera.

We really were much closer than we should have been, but it did appear to be a massive rat snake. However, when I focused the camera, I realized the snake had a triangular head and flattened nose. About the same time, my stepson said he thought he could see venom sacks on the side of its head. And again, at the same time, my husband had picked up the water sprinkler. The water spooked the snake and it pulled the rest of its body through the fence. At first, I thought it was lunging at my husband, then I realized it was simply turning around. As it flipped the back end of its body through the agave plants we clearly saw a long row of rattles. It was a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and was at least seven feet long.

Since the day we moved here I have had a feeling I would some day encounter a very large rattlesnake. I don't know why I had that feeling, I just knew that I would. I never felt threatened at any time by the snake, but I'm still having trouble falling asleep at night thinking about how I was standing with my foot above its head. Before I take the dogs out now, I walk out first and check the yard for snakes.

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