Saturday, June 01, 2013

the serpent in the garden

Mexico has disappointed me in one regard.

Snakes.  There are not enough snakes.

And I cannot understand why.  I live in the tropics.  On the shore of what is essentially a crocodile-infested swamp.  And there are almost no snakes.

That is not entirely true.  I have seen two snakes during the last three years.  A Mexican milk snake  (down by the old tropical stream) and a cat-eyed viper (name that snake).  For an ophiophilist, that is a rather poor record.

But a small event this week helped make up for it.  Dora, the woman who stops by to straighten up my living situation, was here on Wednesday.  Because I get in her way, I am usually exiled to the garden like an eight-year old for te two hours she is here..

While wandering around, I came upon the odd sight at the top of this post.  It was the Mexican milk snake.  At first, I thought someone had done a Robespierre on it.  Its head appeared to be missing.

I bent over and took a closer look.  The head appeared to be down a hole.  I watched for a good ten minutes to figure out what the snake was doing.  I presumed it was either feeding or hunting.  But nothing. 

Certainly it was not sleeping in a position that vulnerable.  But I had never before seen it active during daylight.  All of my previous sightings of it were late at night.

I brought Dora out to show her.  She is not particularly afraid of snakes, but they are certainly not pet material.

I nudged the snake a couple of times.  Nada.  And then it stirred.  Dora screamed and jumped.  She thought it was dead.

Reluctantly the snake revealed its head.  And just stayed there.  A bit groggily it seemed to me.  Maybe it was asleep.  When I returned in about a minute, it darted off into the rocks swifter than I have ever seen it move.

The part that excited me the most?  Getting to see it in the light up close and personal.  It is the first time I actually touched it with my hand.

Milk snakes (all king snakes, in fact) are well-suited to be pets.  What would be a bit disconcerting, though, would be handling a snake that looks so uncannily like a coral snake.

But maybe that would be the greatest thrill of all.


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