It’s snake season in the South Sound

By Washington, Our Home|February 16, 2015|Wildlife|0 comments

On my weekly trail run today, I spotted three garter snakes basking along the side of the path. Each was about 12-16 inches in length and had the familiar yellow stripes running the length of their black bodies. I stopped when I saw the first one because I wanted to see if it was alive (i.e. poke at it with a stick). It was, but quite lethargic as it awaited the sun’s rays to heat up its cold blood to a sufficient temperature.

The common garter snake, found widely across North America, is a diurnal snake – which means it is most active in the morning and late afternoon in summer and warm afternoons in cooler seasons or climates. Frankly, I was surprised they were out this early and in such numbers that I spotted three inside of 20 minutes. At this age, they’re usually about a thick around in the middle as a Sharpie permanent pen.

I learned that in the early part of spring when snakes are coming out of hibernation, the males generally emerge first to be ready when the females wake up. Some males will even assume the role of a female and lure other males away from the burrow with a fake female pheromone. After such a male has led rivals away, he “turns” back into a male and races back to the den, just as the females emerge. He is then the first to mate with all the females he can catch.

502fdf435edfb.preview-620It’s important to note that garter snakes are typically not poisonous to humans, or even dangerous for that matter. Most will quickly slither out of sight at first contact with an animal larger than itself. They eat mostly amphibians and earthworms and their venom has a toxin that is deadly to those creatures. However at most in a human, it may cause slight irritation or itching at the bite site.

So be careful where you step when you’re out in the woods as the days become nicer. These little creatures are fun to have around, especially because they pose no real danger and, when spotted, can be used as a teaching moment for young children. After all, who knows where the next great herpetologist will come from?

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About Washington, Our Home

My name is Erich R. Ebel. I was born in Spokane and moved to Colville, Bothell, Tacoma, and back to Spokane again, all before I was 14. I attended Washington State University in Pullman, graduated and moved back to Spokane. In 2000, I enlisted in the United State Army Reserve and spent six months at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Then it was back to Spokane. After six years, it was time to get out and see the world. And what better place to start than Las Vegas, Nevada! I met my beautiful wife while working at KVBC-TV in Las Vegas, and after three years of suffering in the extreme heat and undeniably long nights, we were called back to Washington State. Landing first in Lakewood, we suffered for a year in an uncomfortably old and small apartment before a shooting and a kidnapping in our complex strongly urged us to leave town. After relocating to Lacey, we have now settled and spend as much time as we can exploring the fine facets of this beautiful state. From Tenino to Tonasket, Brewster to Blaine and Vader to Vancouver, I have enjoyed every moment of this great state.

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