Monday, March 12, 2012

Snakes Alive!

We seldom see snakes on our walks around Gainesville, although at widely spaced intervals in the past those we have seen have included potentially dangerous cottonmouths and coral snakes--not always welcome sightings close to home.

On our walk today we were fortunate to see two different kinds of snakes of the non-venomous variety.

This one, a black racer Coluber constrictor priapus, is quite common. We see them occasionally in the yard, although they usually flee quickly when you approach them. We had one chance to photograph this one before he slithered off in great haste.

This one, also common, is either the bluestripe garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis similis, or the eastern garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis. The bluestripe occurs in Florida's Big Bend region, and ours in Gainesville are probably a blend of the more common and Big Bend varieties. Unlike the racer, this snake seemed willing to pose all day for us, and we got several good photos.

Interestingly, a close relative of the garter snake, the wide-ranging ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus) also has a bluestripe variety, Thamnophis sauritus nitae, that like its relative is limited to the Big Bend area. What is it about being blue that seems to work for these snakes?