Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fun with Nature, #15

Perhaps the title for this post might not be "fun" in some people's eyes. Perhaps it's downright "frightening" for a few. No matter this subject topic is of wild interest to one of our sons, and the topic today is;


Just as our whip snapping hero "Indiana Jones" proclaimed; "I hate snakes!", and showed his complete disdain towards them during the trilogy of movies, many can agree with his emotion towards them. At least in his case, snakes he encountered would absolutely justify such an emotional proclaimation. In fact, at several points in the first movie, I can remember lifting my feet from the floor and bringing my hands up to my own face while watching a few of the scenes. So many snakes were moving below his dangling feet threatening to wrap and coil their bodies around them. Ick!

I've mentioned twice before about the Common Garter Snake which crossed our path early one evening a few weeks ago, the one I was able to snap photos of from inside the house through the window glass, and then more photos when subsequently I scurried towards it after exiting the house in a huge flurry to snap even more.

It was a snake alright, and though we weren't exactly sure what kind of snake at first, books were opened and information sought both in their covers and on the internet. Shortly before my husband had shared with the family a story of a particular dangerous snake found here in Ontario who was poisonous.

Naturally throughout that week we had a few nervous children who quite suddenly weren't at all interested any longer in parading through the forest bush surrounding our home. One child in particular wasn't sleeping well at night, dreamy fears of snakes filled her mind. Poor child.

Our first visitor who came to call one evening

I was in my glory after snapping so many photos of the snake upon our rocky driveway, that is, until I discovered in my haste to get outdoors for the subject photo opportunity, there hadn't been a memory card inside of the camera and all of my great photos were actually resting on the camera's hard drive. Time passed by and it was only last week when I was in the city that the thought had occurred to me to enter a photography store (Blacks) and ask for assistance on how to retrieve those photos. I was so pleased when my issue was resolved with only a very short tutorial. If it ever happens again, I only have to click onto my menu, scroll to the next page and choose "copy", and then "copy to memory card". How simple does that get? I am so happy to have all those photos backed up onto my computer now for safekeeping.

Back to our snake topic;

We used our further snake fact research for an attempt to squash any lingering fears our children might still have. In fact did you know a garter snake is actually a very good slithery friend to have in our midst since his diet consists of earthworms, frogs and mice, and not young children.

These type of snakes can be very intimidating when first sighting one, that is especially when one considers the possibility of the length of his body. They can range from three to five feet in length and since they camouflage so easily in a bush or rock setting, they tend to creep up and suddenly appear before one notices them nearby. In fact the garter snake got his name as the pattern on his body resembles the form of garters once used to hold up a man's socks. When one observes one of these snakes in closer detail, a pattern exists of three small lines on one side, alternating with three on the other at intervals and a black stripe up their sides. This pattern makes them less visible to predators.

Snake "appreciation" isn't exactly a desirable hobby to me, but after finding out our visitor was merely a common garter snake rather than something more poisonous, (mind you it was still capable of biting when provoked), everyone seemed to calm down around here.

And when our son came upon a second sighting of one last weekend while working in the front forest area, he became very determined to capture it and take advantage of closer observations to learn more about him. Was it the same one we wondered.

Very soon I became a part of the action hovering very close to the garter snake in our midst, often with wild and reckless abandon when attempting a macro photo as it coiled up near to my feet. Safe or not safe, I could feel my adrenalin rushing through all of my senses as I jumped from one foot to another, ready all the while to try and secure some live photo footage while our son performed his very brave deed of the snake hunting ultimate capture.

It only took a few minutes to capture the fellow and he wasn't at all happy during the hunt. In fact, he moved about between us, sometimes only 3-4 inches from my shoes and then he began sit still and coil up with his tongue slipping in and out of his mouth quite a lot. He once attempted to hide under a leaf pile, but I suppose our son's fearless attempts at capturing him were too much for the little guy. In the end he ended up in a great big blue mesh bag. He wasn't going to be harmed at all, just looked (gawked!) at for a time.

Our blue netting bag soon became a safe though temporary haven for the scared fellow for a time and only for further observation of course.

Later in the day he was set free into the deep brush within our forest. Go snake Go! Go find mice to eat!

Here are a few more fun facts about Garter Snakes...
  • Colors of garter snakes can range from green to gray to almost black.
  • They give birth to live young in late summer.
  • They live in a range of habitats, including forests, edges of streams, fields and wetlands.
  • In winter, snakes hibernate in a deep crack, rock pile or log pile where the temperature remains above freezing.
Off to show his brother the new friend he captured