Face to Face with a Snake

Today I went exploring with my friend C.  We sun bathed like a couple of beach babes and enjoyed the beautiful St. Lawrence River.  While there, we saw ducks and even a loon.  We also stopped at a barn sale where I came face to face with one of these.

This, my friends, is the black rat snake.  They can climb trees which is evidenced by the fact that it was on a high shelf in the barn hiding behind some lamps.  I startled it while looking at antique blue Ball jars.  Having only ever encountered little garter snakes, I was was momentarily taken aback.  The owner of the barn was near me determining the price of said jars.  I kind of absentmindedly muttered, “You have a snake in your barn…”  Recalling the time a mechanic found and then mutilated a snake in my car, I quickly regretted telling the man, but he was actually super laid back about it.  Basically said, “Yep.  That’s a black snake.  They eat the mice in the barn.  He won’t hurt you.”  C and I watched him for a bit.  The snake curved its head out of its hiding place to look right at me – at slightly above eye-level.  What was really disconcerting was that he seemed to be making a little rattling noise with his tail.  The man assured me the snake wasn’t a rattler.  We have them in Upstate NY, just not in Jefferson County (at least not that we know of…)

As I researched the snake to find out it’s real name, I found out that they vibrate their tails against their surroundings to scare off potential predators.  Apparently they also release a musk but, thankfully, that didn’t happen in my encounter (probably because we didn’t try to touch him).  The owner of the barn said they can grow up to eight feet, and indeed they can!  The specimen we saw couldn’t have been longer than 6 but was probably closer to 5 feet.  It was hard to tell because of how knotted up he was.  Truly a beautiful creature and a great find on such a lovely day!

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaphe_obsoleta_obsoleta
http://www.uga.edu/srelherp/snakes/elaobs.htm
http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/44650.html

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