Monday, December 13, 2010

A Chilled Visitor - Thankfully!!

Imagine my surprise when my dog did a big straight up leap on the sidewalk outside of our house...... "What are you doing, you silly boy?"  Y I K E S!

Luckily, we were coming back from our afternoon walk. I brought the dogs into the house, ran for the camera and decided on a yard stick to pick up this wee feisty one.

When I got close to it, the snake reared up, it's head looking triangular.....  mouth open.....

Great, a small viper on my door step.  Thank you, Lord for cold temperatures making for a slow, very small snake... Here I'd been thinking all the snakes were safely tucked away for the winter.
I didn't have too much trouble getting it to balance on the yardstick.  See it's triangular head?  I couldn't wait to deposit this guy in the thick grasses along the marsh so I could run back to the house and get out the Reptiles and Amphibians guide book.

You can click on the images for a larger view.
Look Ma, no hands!  What a show off.  I love how it's tail curls around it's body.
Ooops, it fell off the yardstick and immediately wanted to fight. Nice mouth, huh?
There you go, little feisty one. Slide down into the dense grass and get warm!

I looked at the guidebook under venomous snakes but I couldn't make a clear i.d. I thought perhaps it was a young cottonmouth but the tail coloring was all wrong for it's age.

I sent an email to my friend and Lowcountry Institute's education director, Tony Mills.
He loves snakes and reptiles and knows them cold!

Let me introduce you to a non-venomous, young
Yellow Rat Snake, Elaphe ovsoleta quadrivittata!  Thanks, Toni!

My guide book says it a common and characteristic snake of the great river swamps of the south. Also that when cornered in the field, many of these snakes literally stand up and fight, with the fore portion of the body reared upward, the head drawn back in an S-curve, and the mouth held open in readiness to strike!  Yup, this little guy had these mannerisms down pat!

Amazing how one can ignore the cold at times like these :)


  1. What an intriguing visitor! The rat snakes are not poisonous are they? Still, even if they're not, they're enough to make you hurt yourself!

    Glad everyone's okay!

  2. No, not venomous.... I forgot to add that and corrected the post. Thanks, Laure!

  3. Yikes is right! Nice that you got him identified though. And that no one was bitten - even if he isn't poisonous!

  4. The feisty fellow! He (?) was so small I wonder how much of a bit it could inflict. I always worry about the dogs as when we walk, they're out in front of me. They have good African genes, though. They don't like the scent of snakes and also have a great jumping reflex.

  5. Finally a snake with an appropriate name! :-) Just kidding, but I'm glad he was so small! Venom or no, a bite is no fun!

  6. His northern cousin the Milk snake or Rat snake is equally ferocious. We have more here than I would like. The coloring is similar but not the head shape. The Milk snakes rattle their tails, and aggressively fight with heads. They are not poisonous but have teeth and the bite can be a bit nasty. The very very little ones are as aggressive as big Daddy ones. One reason I do not mind the snow so much as all the really bad bugs and snakes do not like or survive the snow. A mere 8 degrees right now.

  7. Cold? It's 27 degrees here! Glad to see the woofies spied him before your foot landed on him...


  8. Jeanette, I can imagine calling it more than a 'rat' had it connected with the dogs or me :) I did get a kick out of its spunk, though.

    Carol, all the time spent in western NY and I never came across any snakes. Lucky me! I was surprised to learn a non-venomous snake would act this way. Keep warm! 15 degree windchill here this morning..... the buildings here are not insulated enough for this weather!

    Sweet M, me too! Stay warm! We're trying but the old bones are pretty cranky!

  9. Fascinating! We had a local hiker come across a rattler here...and I thought they were all hibernating by now too.
    Are you sure yours is not a black rat snake juvenile? The colors/pattern appear very similar to the black vs. the yellow. Bet you were glad to discover it was non-venomous.

  10. Thanks for stopping by, Katie! Maybe the snakes know it will warm back up.... Ha! I don't know about black versus yellow.... my book only shows adults. That's why I asked our local snake man :)

  11. We have lots of the rat snakes around here. I found one in my garden shed, young, and very similar to the one you photographed. Of course, they are in hibernation now.

  12. Hi Joan, You'd think with the crazy 20 degree night temps our local snakes would be hibernating too! Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Thankfully, yes :) Thanks for stopping by, Kate!