My recent trip to Copper Breaks State Park was the first trip I have ever taken where I specifically went looking for herps (I was especially hoping to see rattlesnakes and horny toads). At the park, there were signs posted at the trail heads warning of rattlesnakes. so I was giddy (and a little nervous) as I set out for the day. The equestrian trail (always the best trails for wildlife viewing, IMO) was deserted and my cell phone had no signal. *Gulp* Early on, I spotted this snake skin:
I certainly cannot ID a snake by its shed skin, but we’ve learned that it is indeed possible. In my mind, I was sure this was a good sign that I would soon find a rattlesnake.
About halfway through my first day, I came across this pristine snake trail. I had never seen anything like this, yet I instantly knew what it was. You’ll notice that the trail leads to a grass outcropping…which I followed. No snake. At least, no snake that I could see – I certainly didn’t feel around with my hands or poke around with my foot. Maybe I should have, because this was the closest I got to a snake during my 1 and 1/2 days at the park. It wasn’t until I returned home that I finally encountered a couple of snakes
Look who I startled when I walked out into my backyard! I believe this is a Western Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus proximus) – the largest and most colorful snake I’ve seen this year. It’s no rattler, but I was excited all the same. (I love that green wash on the belly and sides!)
This is my handy-dandy snake-length estimator.
Turns out this ribbon snake was camera shy – he didn’t stick around long for his photo shoot.
[squealing] LOOK! A baby Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus). I have had a healthy population of these small, emerald snakes around my house this year. This is the first baby I’ve seen, and it was simply making its way across the grass. (I suspect my dog might have spooked it out of some lush, pond-side vegetation). She was easy to catch, but just as feisty as the adult Rough Green Snake I encountered earlier this summer.
What a cutie!
I may not have found a “real live” rattlesnake in the field yet, but I’ve sure had fun looking. I think my experiences are a testament to the truth that most snakes prefer not to tangle with people. I hope these posts about my serpentine encounters will chip away an the innate fear of snakes that so many people have. Snakes are really beautiful and fascinating animals, worthy of our respect, and deserving their rightful place in wild and urban ecosystems.
If you would like to read a brief but informative article about snake safety, please visit this link to a recent article in the August 2010 edition of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, “Skill Builder: Snake Safety.”