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.
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.
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.
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.
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.