Like most boys I was always fascinated by snakes as a kid. Scientifically of course. But I was also taught to never get close to them. I suppose that my parents feared that I would become too comfortable with the harmless varieties and accidentally get too close to the dangerous ones and get the “hurt juice”. So thus began my young adventures into the library. The internet was just science fiction and the most powerful computer one planet earth was the size of a building and belonged to NASA. So the next best thing was Encyclopedia Britannica in the School system. If you’re lucky they have a version that was updated in the 1850s and contained the sum knowledge of mankind. The encyclopedia had a lot of information. There’s even pictures of a snakes skeleton and a chart that points to different snake body parts.
The forked tongue seen in tonight’s feature image is what gives them their ability to track. It tells them what direction the smell is coming from.
Image Titled “Eastern Rat Snake 52620b” showing the round pupil.
Here in North America we only have a handful of venomous snakes to worry about and even less in West Virginia since we’re to far outside of the Coral Snake’s range. ( The coral snake is actually a member of the cobra family. ) here we only worry about the Pit Vipers. The Rattlesnakes and Copperhead. There’s unconfirmed reports of the Cottonmouth here but officially they’re not found here either. All of the put vipers have slit shaped pupils like a cat. In the previous image you can see that the rat snakes have round pupils. You can also see that he has a nostril but no heat sensitive pit.
Image Titled “Eastern Rat Snake 52620c”
As for snakes that were not in a book or on T.V. they were not quite as fascinating. In fact until I was about 16 years old they terrified me. It was a conditioned reflex. A behavior that I wasn’t really born with. Learning to overcome that involved me taking every opportunity to not just expose myself to the live snakes but to actually get to know them. As it turns out, the Eastern Rat Snake is pretty docile under most circumstances. This one in particular is downright friendly. He even has a name. I call him “De-Con”. That’s right. Same as the pest control product. And for the same reason. This one is a resident on my property. His job is to hang out in and around my sheds and eat as many mice as he wants. We have actually formed a loose relationship. I was able to get tonight’s photos because De-Con allowed me to stretch out in the grass with him and invade his personal space with the camera. I do occasionally have to remove him from the lawn tractor before I start it because he likes to curl up on the mowing deck. I have not tried to pick him up with my hand. He has no venom and isn’t aggressive but there’s a bit of a trick to picking up a snake without causing it pain or throwing it into panic. De-Con is a wild animal with a primitive mind that only understands that if something picks you up its probably trying to eat you. So instead I have a stick with a crude hook that I move him with. It really doesn’t take much and he’s learned that when I start messing with the mower it’s time to slip under the shed until the ground stops shaking. Today though I caught him just out sunning himself in the grass. It looks like he’s just finished shedding his skin because he’s so shiny and iridescent.
Image Titled “Iridescent Scales 52620a”
Finally, De-Con decided that he’d given the photographer plenty of poses and calmly made his way into the tall weeds on the edge of the forest. I was fairly satisfied with the encounter since it’s not every day that we actually see each other. In spite of the fact that he’s living in my sheds I only see him a few times a year. It’s in his nature to avoid contact with any human.
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4 thoughts on “The Eastern Rat Snake, A Barn Companion”
Great pics. They are great for keeping the mouse and rat population in check. 😊
Thank you Lisa ❤ This one has been helping out around here for several years now. He's allowed me to move him with a stick before but this is closest I've been able to get with my body.
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Well I guess he was ready for his photo shoot. 😉
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I guess so 😊
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