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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Species Spotlight #21: Eastern Garter Snake

Back when I was a kid, I only knew a couple kinds of snakes. Copperhead was one. I had to be careful of Copperheads – they were poisonous, after all. But I also knew the Garter Snake. Back then I didn’t know better, so I thought pretty much everything was a Garter Snake. Brown Snake? Nope! Juvenile Garter Snake. Water Snake? Nope! Garter Snake in the water. It took me a long time to get over this preconception. It took even longer to find an actual Garter Snake.

I’ve never actually caught a Garter Snake. Not yet, anyway. They’re supposed to be quite nasty, and the first one I ever identified was slithering along a white picket fence at my parents house. My dog, curious as always, stuck his nose in the face of this foreign creature, and it struck at him time and time again. My dog, a rather stupid and oblivious creature, continued to sniff it.

One day last summer, James and I decided to visit the Korstian Division of Duke Forest. We saw great birds that day, but also plenty of snakes – Eastern Hognose and Northern Water being the highlights. But on the way down to the creek, we found this Eastern Garter Snake slithering across the path, and boy it didn’t want to be messed with. James took this long-distance shot, but as soon as he moved in for a macro, the snake began to ferociously strike the camera. Apparently that’s just how Garter Snakes are. They’re not too common, but I’ve never gotten up the courage to catch one if I see it. I’m prepared to get bitten if necessary. Next time.

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