Friday, June 19, 2009

Matters Herpetological

"Back off, Lady! The chick is mine!"

Back to the snakes: A friend who happens to be a very refined woman from Maryland has told me that my snakes from the previous post are males. She said that they were all trying to mate with a female. She actually used the term 'gang-bang.' My friend is the sort of woman who might wear white gloves on occasion, does not raise her voice, drink nor swear. So it's incongruous that she also happens to be a talented wildlife photographer. She was speaking simply factually about the behaviors of snakes as it has been her business to know these things. This prompted me to do some research. I learned that Garter snake males erupt from a communal den when the weather warms to ready themselves for females. Usually, one female appears and they all jump her at once often in a mating ball of sometimes a hundred or so snakes. I was lucky I suppose, that I only saw six. That also explains the hostile nature of the snakes like this one that persisted in staring me in the face! Garter snakes which are usually timid are apt to show complete disregard for potential danger (that would have been little old me) when they are about to mate. There was one snake pictured here that was much larger and darker than the others. That would have been the female, according to my genteel friend from Maryland. The bigger a girl snake, the better the boy snakes like 'em, because a bigger snake lady can produce more baby snakes. So, during mating, females will puff themselves up by hyperventilating to appear so. Males looking for females that are ready to do the deed, recognize her willingness and location by the release of pheromones or chemical changes which occur in her skin secretions. The male picks up this perfume by flickering his tongue up and down the female's body. The courting male rubs his chin faster and faster along the back and side of his girl then aligns his body with hers. Calm down now, all of you! The female will retain the sperm until all the eggs she holds are fertilized. This can take as long as five years so she can give birth whenever and wherever is right. The lady snake will give birth to from 6 to 40 live snakes between July and October depending on when she mated. So, I guess I'd better be looking out! The stone wall below ran the length of the perennial border. That is where the snake colony was over the winter. The molted snake skin was a give away to that under the circumstances. I should have known! In their second year, the young snakes will be ready to repeat the reproductive cycle. In the future, I'll be checking the cracks of that wall very carefully!

Anyone want to make a nice pair of boots or a purse?

Lady Godiva - to a snake, a really hot chick!

"The chicks really dig this move."


  1. I got such a chuckle out of the whole piece...more than even you knew. Besides all the knowledge of animal sex that you gave me credit for, you called me gentile. I know you meant genteel, but the other description is accurate. I giggled and giggled! xxoo Ms. Freud

  2. I enjoyed your snake photos. My son David always had a room full of
    creatures: rats, African clawed frog, tiger salamander, tegu lizard, I
    can't remember them all, but once when we were away for a week we had a
    pet sitter (there were also my African Green singing finches (I raised
    them) Beth's angora hamsters, Marc's cat, and Beth's dog). David had a
    garter snake in a cage and when we came back she had given live birth to
    29 baby snakes! This was unexpected and rather freaked the pet sitter
    out. (And very much disappointed David who would have like to see them

  3. Thank you, Mrs. Freud for telling me I had committed a typographical gaff and said you are gentile. Though accurate, I did indeed intend to say you are genteel. That was the literary version of whispering in my ear on my return from the powder room that I was trailing toilet paper from my shoe!

  4. In the same vein ... if you go to one of them thar snake handler churches down in Appalachia and get intimate with a snake, do you get Herpes? Hmmmm....