Thursday, May 08, 2008


When I was out running today I came across a garter snake on the trail. By itself that's not too unusual. The first unusual thing about this one was that it didn't immediately flee. Instead it formed a rough coil in the middle of the trail and stared at me. I froze to get a good look at it before it took off. It was quite thick, a lot fatter than the other garter snakes I'd seen this spring. My guess is that it's a pregnant female.

When it didn't move I started to edge closer. It continued to stare at me, it's pink tongue with it's black forked tip flicking in and out.

When my shadow crossed over it, it lunged with its mouth open as if to bite. I was still several feet away and it only lunged about 6 inches, so I wasn't in any danger of getting bitten. But it still took me aback. I've seen and handled lots of garter snakes and I've never seen one aggressive like this. Even picking them up I've never had one try to bite me. (Note: they aren't poisonous and they don't have very big teeth so they couldn't hurt much even if they wanted to.)

I didn't want to leave her sitting on the path - too many dogs and people who are scared of snakes. So I edged closer again, hoping she'd head into the bush. But she refused, instead lunging at me again. I picked up a stick and tried to gently encourage her to leave. She lunged at the stick a few times but eventually gave up and slithered away.

I wonder if her aggression was because she was pregnant? (If she was actually pregnant.) But when I was a kid I took home a "fat" garter snake that gave birth a short time later, and it was never aggressive like this. (I returned mother and children to the wild.) Maybe this was just an aggressive individual. In a mammal you might wonder about rabies but I don't think that's a possibility for snakes.

[Sorry, no pictures, I haven't gotten as far as carrying a camera running yet.]

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