Ophidiophobic? Don’t Look Now!

Since Tim and I live near the river, we know there are snakes around. Lucky for us, the ones we have encountered so far are nonpoisonous. Most have been black snakes, but we’ve also seen a handful of brown snakes (Storeria dekayi), a small species that grows to about 13-inches long, and a few similar-sized worm snakes (Carphophis amoenus). There were also two water snakes that I scooped out of an old white wall when cleaning tires out of the river, but that’s another story.

Brown snake on the patio behind our house.

Brown snake on the patio behind our house.

To be honest I have a hard time distinguishing the black snakes. I know I’ve seen at least two long, slender, and shiny snakes that I’ve been calling black racers (Coluber constrictor priapus), but they might be black rat snakes or something else. One, which I’ve seen many times, is roughly 4-feet long and the other is somewhat smaller, under 3-feet long. Here are a few photos (taken last year) of the larger snake which dens in a crack in the concrete retaining wall that separates our back garden from the woodland terraces that reach down to the river. When resting, it is usually coiled and it does not seem to mind me coming close for a look. Once, when I didn’t see the snake moving through the grass and almost stepped on it, it kinked up but did not strike.

Black racer or black rat?  April 15, 2012

Black racer or black rat? April 15, 2012

Kinked up, after nearly being stepped on.

Kinked up, after nearly being stepped on.

Over the wall and away.

Over the wall and away.

Here is a photo of what I believe is the same snake on Easter Sunday, the first day this year we saw it sunning itself in an azalea just a few feet from the concrete wall. Tim and I saw the same snake several times in the next 10 days or so, either in the azalea or stretched along the top of the wall. Then it disappeared and we joked it had left for a hunting trip.

Sunning in the azalea.

Sunning in the azalea.

Today, however, I saw what appears to be a different snake in the same azalea. This snake looks larger and thicker and has a faint but discernible pattern on its back. I’m pretty sure it is a black rat snake (Elaphe obsolete). Rather than resting coiled, it was stretched out, and it seemed disturbed by my attention, flicking its tongue and moving among the branches.

Can you see the faint pattern on its back?  Looks thicker too.

Can you see the faint pattern on its back? Looks thicker too.

I have read that different species of snakes will den together, but don’t know if this is true or not.

What do you think? Is this the same snake? Do you have any info to share?

As a side note, copperheads are quite common in our area but we have not seen one near our home. I hope my friends the black snakes are keeping them at bay.

13 thoughts on “Ophidiophobic? Don’t Look Now!

  1. Julie Smith

    YIKES!!!!! I hate snakes!!!! Please keep them down at your house. But I sure enjoy seeing your ajuga and hostas every day when I’m walking Annabelle.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair

      Julie–I hope the back snakes will stay around. I don’t enjoy being surprised by a snake, but if I see it before I get too close it doesn’t scare me. Let’s make a deal: I’ll keep the snakes if you keep the coyotes.

      Reply
  2. Will

    Gorgeous snakes! It’s wonderful to have them not object to your shared occupation of that beautiful woodland.

    Reply
  3. Debra Strange

    I always love finding one in my garden, Marian, and it makes me smile that you appreciate them too. A little guy who has been helping me with ivy clearing calls that one in the first photo a pilot snake. I am always happy to see one more resident of my garden.

    Reply
  4. entwinedlife

    This is the time… we entertained a striped Garter snake at the JC Raulston Mixed Border last week, and a couple small rat snakes this past week… I was once sitting on the veranda of a historic home in Maryland and saw sever pairs of black snakes in oak trees… we think they were mating… they’re lower bodies lenths twisted and upper bodies slung over Trees heads touching forming giant hearts! Interesting but creepy… Our host asked us not to point them out to his wife… “She would make me move!”
    It is an Entwinedlife!

    Reply
  5. beth croft

    Glad you haven’t seen copperheads yet; I have already seen two, but only one was killed…had 5 last summer

    Reply
  6. sungropam

    I encountered a gorgeous black & white 4-5′ long Black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta) in the back garden just last week. Like yours, he/she was very social. hugs, Pam

    Reply
  7. Lyn

    I want to say Black Rat snake Marian. I have one in my yard as well, and I cherish him for his role in keeping voles away. But I’ve also seen him up a tree feasting on a Titmouse, and on my porch going after Wrens eggs. As to the other snake could it be a King snake?

    Reply
  8. Janet, The Queen of Seaford

    I was surprised to see how small the brown snake was in your picture. I don’t know if we have any around here, haven’t seen them. We have lots of black ones, be they Black Racers or Black Rat snakes, I don’t know. I just tell them to get those voles out of my garden!
    Charlie calls unknown snakes ‘Step Arounds’ cuz he is stepping around them, giving wide berth.
    I think your snake may be the same one, just older.

    Reply

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