Snake in the Grass!
It’s only Thursday, but it’s already been quite a week. While everyone else was barbecuing and setting off illegal fireworks, Paul and I spent the weekend cleaning up in preparation for our new upcoming adventure: re-roofing. The bathroom and kitchen areas are now completely cleared out for when my father works on the kitchen floor or for when we do the plumbing. Meanwhile, I got inspired to take on the weeds around the garage. Last week, I got stinging nettles on my arm while retrieving something from behind the garage, which was a huge wake-up call that the weeds had gotten out of control. I remember (unpleasantly) getting “stung” by nettles at nature camp when I was a child… the only difference being that I was in the middle of nowhere after canoeing the Root River, instead of being on my own property in considerably-more-urbanized Saint Paul. Armed with the garden gloves Paul’s mom got me for My birthday and a branch cutter, I took out about two lawn-bags worth of weeds, buckthorn saplings and other weedy trees that were encroaching on the area around the garage. I can’t be sure if Monday’s leafy rampage had anything to do with Tuesday’s events, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
On Tuesday afternoon, I picked Paul up early from work so we could mow the lawn and catch up on a few other house-keeping things. We rolled up the driveway and I stopped about 15 feet away from the garage so we’d have enough room to mow in front of the garage door (we have a gravel driveway, and “weeding the driveway” has not been particularly high on my to do list). I’m about to turn off the car when I see a little head pop out from the grass. “Oh look, Paul,” I said, “it’s a little snake!” The number one thing you need to know about this story is that Paul is very uncomfortable around snakes. I admittedly like to rib him about this every once in a while, hence me pointing it out. However, as the snake crawled onto the gravel I noticed that he just kept going… as in, I haven’t seen his tail yet! Little snake is not so little, it’s turning out. I looked down to shift my car into park, and suddenly Paul said “Oh God it’s going into the garage!” And sure enough, there was a perfectly snake-sized hole at the bottom of one of carriage house door panels that his tail was disappearing into.
To be fair, it was pretty hot and sunny out that day. If I were a snake and didn’t have homeostasis to keep me cool, I would probably hang out on a concrete garage floor too. However, I needed to use the garage, so I opened the side door and walked away, and Paul started mowing the lawn. I started picking up some sticks on the lawn, my back turned from the garage. Then I remembered the snake, so I turned around, and there he was outside the door, staring right at me! I jumped back, startled, then realized that I’d need a photo to identify the species and grabbed my cell phone from my pocket. I guess the movement startled the snake too, because he shot off toward the bushes. I know you’re all dying to see the snake photo by now, so without further ado, here’s the shot I took as he fled:
Needless to say, Paul was not thrilled to hear that this was not your run-of-the-mill garter snake. Granted, I wanted to know what it was, so I did a little research online and asked a herping friend of mine, and the consensus is that our mystery snake is a western fox snake, or Elapha vulpina. It’s apparently one of the larger snakes in Minnesota with an adult length of 3 to 4 1/2 feet, another fact Paul’s not too keen on. Meanwhile, while I can say I wouldn’t hug this guy if I saw him again, I am grateful that he has at least stopped by and hopefully consumed some of the mice that constantly get into the basement and garage. More ecology in action, I guess! Anyone got any snake stories they’d like to share?