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SEASON OF THE SNAKE

Tina Hartell

This summer the three-year olds have been preoccupied with snakes: snake drawings, snake bedtime stories, snake photos, snake ecology. And understandably so, as there’s nothing more exciting, terrifying, and mystifying than a snake even for a three-year old who isn’t aware of all our snake mythology. We’ve looked at photos of constrictors who’ve succeeded in consuming a crocodile, snakes which blind by shooting venom, and the densely-populated, super-eerie snake dens. Even for me, very few animals make me jump and even give a little yelp when I come across one slithering ahead of me in the grass. And I like snakes.

To catch more sightings, we set up snake boards on the stone walls near our gardens and pond.

The snakes come out of their stone wall homes and curl up on the warm sun-heated stones under the protection of the snake boards. Then to their annoyance, the three-year olds come visit, lifting the boards in search of one.

Often the snake boards look like this: empty or cricket filled.

But it’s not unusual to see one like we did this morning.

And since I’ve spent some time looking in field guides this summer I know this is a ring-necked snake, a small gray snake with a yellow belly and a pretty yellow ring around its neck. The other snake we tend to see is the common garter snake. We have at least two garters of significant size fattening themselves, hopefully, on the voles in our garden. And I’m pretty sure there’s a milk snake in the area, although I’ve haven’t seen him/her for a couple of years.

There’s a good website listing all the herps in Vermont with pictures, maps, and ecology information- The Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas  http://community.middlebury.edu/~herpatlas/ This is a great resource for figuring out what snakes are in the stone walls and what frogs are in the pond.