Well, I haven't been very diligent with my posts here but I have had some nice run in's with reptiles this year. I only just realized that I haven't posted since the rattlesnake back in June. So let's make up for lost time.
I've come across a few Texas rat snakes (P. o lindheimeri) since the spring.
This first snake was cruising around a pond on a nice sunny day back in March. As soon as he saw me he went into the standard wavy defensive position you see below. They normally do this if they don't think you've seen them yet.
In the shadows of a forest or grassy field this wavy pattern probably helps to break up the long sleek outline of the snake. You can see this pretty well against the light colored ground in the picture. I added a wavy red line to the picture below. Notice how the waves make an alternating light/dark pattern in the sunlight? The whole trick to camouflage is to break up your shape. Evolution encourages this.
This snake also provided good examples of several other typical rat snake defensive behaviors. Texas rat snakes are very high strung and do not like to be handled. When touched or picked up they will hiss, strike and bite. I have a lot of experience with these animals and although I am holding this snake in my bare hand you'll notice it displaying multiple defensive postures.
#1 the head is spread out to look as imposing and possibly venomous as possible. (see red triangle below)
#2 The neck is pulled back into an S-shaped. (See red lines below) He can and will strike from this position. When striking he will exhale sharply. Often the strike is a fake (meaning that he doesn't intend to bite you). Often the snake will be so aggressive with this faking, it will bump it's nose against you. The contact is meant to make you jump back away from the snake giving it time to retreat. However, if it chooses to bite you, it has very sharp, thin fish hook like teeth and it can draw blood easily.
#3 You can see in the lower left of the picture below that the cloacal opening is displayed. That's because this snake is about to dump a horrible smelling musk on me along with whatever feces/urea it can muster. None of these things are dangerous to a grown human who washes their hands but they are unpleasant. So, let's be aware and avoid that, shall we?
A month later I caught this skinny Texas rat snake in a pine forest far from any water. In the picture below it is trying to do the wavy thing but this snake is severely malnourished and probably, really distracted by its search to find food. Life in the wild is tough.
I only handled it for a minute but you will notice that this weak snake is much less defensive.
This Texas rat snake, like the first one, is very dark with very little red or yellow visible on the back.
Don't worry, the skinny snake took off like it was healthy enough. It probably found some bird's eggs or baby squirrels and is nice and fat by now...or it was eaten by almost anything else in the forest. We'll probably never know.
In mid-June I took a few trips to the Mineola Nature Preserve and found loads of fun snakes.
This little ribbon snake (T. sauritus) was catching some sun when I spotted it.
These are quick little snakes that like to hang out near the water. They hunt pretty much anything they can catch but this snake was almost certainly after the soft molted crayfish and tadpoles in the water nearby. These snakes don't strike much and are fairly placid once captured, but be warned, they are fast, so be faster.
I like the beautifully subtle blues and greens.
This was a very mature, well fed snake.I let it go right where I found it and it ran off into the flooded grass nearby.
I caught quite a few water snakes on these trips. Most people assume all snakes in the water are cottonmouths. In fact, almost all the water snakes in East Texas as harmless, frog eating members of the Genus "Nerodia". Below is a broad banded water snake (N fasciata). These snakes display a wide variety of great earthy reds, yellows and browns ranging from caramel to coffee. Cool snakes.
The belly coloration is often much more impressive since it's the only glossy part of the snake. The dorsal scales are sharply keeled and always look "dusky"
This mottled overlapping coloration makes for a super effective camouflage. You might be able to argue that the scale keeling helps to break up the sunlight but I doubt that's th eonly purpose for this feature.
This snake was calm as it made its get away.
Closely related to the broad banded water snake is the snake below. The Yellow Bellied water snake (N. erythrogaster).
You can't find a more generic, plain Jane snake that this. It's brown. It's a couple feet long. It's a snake. No cool colors, it can't eat a whole pig, it's not on a plane with Sam Jackson. This is probably the snake Lutherans think of when they ready the bible.
It does have a cool yellow belly.
And it is aggressive. This one turned right around a bit me "for reals".
Finally, here's a happy, little baby coachwhip I caught in some leaves last week. This particular snake will look much different when it's grown.
I kind of like the speckled pattern. It looks like weaving, doesn't it?
The huge eyes and sharply contrasted scales make it look amazingly like an anime character. (there is no filter on the picture below)
Here's the little fella in his natural environment. Despite understanding how natural selection drives evolution I still think it's amazing how the hues of his skin so closely match the fallen leaves. I'll keep any eye on this area and maybe in a year or two I'll get a picture of this snake as an adult.
It's worthy noting that coachwhips (and black racers) have a super high metabolic rate that seems to help them act like mammals. Notably once they are picked up they settle down and lay in your hands. Once this guy settled down I put him back in the leaves and tried to film him running off. He just sat their until I actually touched him again. I don't fully understand this behavior but you can judge for yourself.
See, that should have been at least 4 posts.
I'll finish up with a cool video I got the other day of a hog nose snake. I have filmed them several time doing their defensive displays but they always go to the "play dead" phase. I was able to keep this one just interested enough in getting away that you can see him relax, drop the hood and make his run for it. If you've ever played with hognose snakes in the wild you might find this interesting.