Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Close Encounter Of The Gentle Kind

With a Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta): that is. I like Black Rat Snakes. This is the fourth I’ve encountered this year. I think I’m starting to understand them and I like them.

We were driving down a road in Hancock County, Georgia, when W swerved, hit the breaks, whipped he truck into reverse can backed down the road. It was less than a mile from where we encountered the Timber
Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) in July. In this case, I didn’t hesitate to hop out and walk up to it – slowly so as not to upset it more than it probably already was. But, it wasn’t like walking up to the rattlesnake. It was like approaching an old friend. If I picked up snakes, I would have picked this one up without hestitation.

It had started out onto the road as we came by. We hadn’t hit it. By the time we backed up, it was in its classic ‘crinkle’ pose.

A closer view of its head

And, for some reason, I took a shot of its tail; it was just stretched out

After a while, the tell-tale tongue flick. I’d seen that at Fort Yargo State Park when I encountered one on the trail late one afternoon. The sign that it was thinking about leaving. Testing the air to see if it was safe to turn and leave. What do they detect - or not detect - that tells them it's safe to leave?

Then it turned to leave

Interestingly, it ‘pulled’ its tail up as it started to move off. I’d never noticed that before.

And off it went. Safely back into the brush.

It seemed as if we had been photographing it for a long time, but when I looked at the time-stamp on the images, the entire encounter had lasted a total of just four minutes.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resource:

- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Herpetology Program: Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta; formerly Elaphe obsoleta)

Related posts:

- OK, Now I’m Getting A Complex: Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsolete) At Home

- Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta): Broad River Wildlife Management Area, Wilkes County, Georgia

- Black Rat Snake: Another Close Encounter

- And There It Was… Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta)


laurak@forestwalkart said...

i like snakes...and this one sure is a beauty!
great shots!!

Joy Window said...

How crinkley! Unusual.

JSK said...

Yes. This 'crinkle' pose is the instinctive defensive response of the rat snake. It's nice because it gives you the opportunity to get a good look at them, and pics. But they are also very vulnerable since they just freeze until they feel it's safe to move off. Provides too much opportunity for those who think the only good snake is a dead snake, to kill them.