I went to the back porch a couple of days ago to retrieve my cat, Nicholas, who had been helping me with my garden work outside. Nicholas is a great gardener - especially good at digging holes and filling them - but he truly excels at every gardener's favorite activity in the yard, resting in the shade, preferably on his back while he airs his tummy fur.
Anyway, as I say, I went to retrieve my gardening assistant and found him in a face-off on the porch with this guy:
The snake had been herded into a corner near the back door and had no escape route. As I looked at him from the doorway, he raised his head toward me and shook the tip of his tail. "Nice try," I thought, "but I know you are not a rattlesnake!"
But what was he? I'm not good at identifying snakes, so I wanted to get my camera to take a picture so that I might identify him later. Since neither snake nor cat seemed to be in any eminent danger and the snake did not appear particularly aggressive, I shut the door and ran for the camera and took the shot that you see above. The only thing left to do was to distract Nicholas so the snake could escape, not a difficult task as my cat is more a lover than a fighter.
Mission accomplished and snake on his way, I uploaded the picture and pored over my Peterson Field Gudes' Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern/Central North America. Sure enough, there was my snake in plate 28, "Rat Snakes." There are several different kinds of rat snakes, but my visitor was a Texas rat snake.
I was excited to have seen this snake. When I'm digging around the yard, I often encounter small snakes, which is gratifying, but this was a pretty big snake. Since it was coiled, it was difficult to estimate its length, but I would guess at least four or five feet, and it looked very well fed.
Researching the Texas rat snake, I found that they are very well-named. Their chief prey is rodents. We have had some problems with rodents in the past, particularly when we kept chickens, but I haven't seen any around the yard - except for moles - in more than a year. Hey, maybe that's because my resident snake has been on the job!
At any rate, finding this snake made me happy. I am a habitat gardener, after all, and snakes are an important and often persecuted part of the natural environment. It is important to me that they find a safe haven in my yard. It looks like this one has.
(Read more about this very interesting and useful snake here.)