Aug 10 2009

A Snakey Sort of Day

Published by at 7:49 am under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Two Black Rat Snakes (photos by Kate St. John)

If snakes give you the creeps, don't look at these pictures.

Yesterday was hot and humid so I made sure to get my hiking done early.  I was out on the Youghiogeny River bike trail by 8:45am, not "early" for most of you but a feat for me.  Bike trails are great in August because there's usually a breeze and fewer mosquitoes.  This proved to be the case.  Still, it was hot. 

Most of my hike was uneventful but when I got to Cedar Creek two cyclists said, "Watch out on the right.  There's a black snake on the bridge." 


The black rat snake was probably about three feet long but he was coiled up with his tail drooping off the bridge deck so I can't be sure.  He'd been in the middle of the bridge and the cyclists had shoved (or chased) him to the side so he wouldn't get run over.  They warned me he could bite but I knew he wouldn't leap at me so I got close enough to take his picture.   

On my return hike the snake was on the other side of the bridge contemplating another trip toward the middle of the deck.  I urged him to get away from the bike traffic and he slid backwards into the void.  Did he cling to the underside of the bridge?  Black rat snakes can climb trees so maybe this guy climbed the bridge pillar.

I hiked the grassy edge on my way back to the car and halfway there I encountered another black rat snake.  He too was contemplating a sprint across the bike path.  (He's the one on the right.)  When he stuck out his tongue to smell me he decided not to proceed. 

Black rat snakes are relatively harmless to humans.  They are non-venomous constrictors who eat rats, mice, other snakes, squirrels, chipmunks, birds and bird eggs. 

I saw a lot of birds on my hike so I hope these two snakes were hunting for rodents.  Or perhaps they were sunning themselves. 

The heat made it a snakey sort of day.

(photos by Kate St. John (using my cell phone).  For more information on the bike trail, click here.)

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “A Snakey Sort of Day”

  1. faith Cornellon 11 Aug 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Those are really nice snakes tho. Had those around my home in Conway before moving to Bridgeville. We never had rats or mice in the house, aside from the fact we had 4 cats. But always just tossed them into woods when they would come up sometime to just lay on the very long concrete 40 ft.driveway we had to get warmed up for awhile. Some in the neighborhood were horrified of them but I tried to give them nature lessons all my life but some would just cut them to pieces with shovels so I stopped telling them there were at my place. They are intimidating for sure. But the smaller kind that were brown marked copperheads were not to be ignored. Nice you happened on them. I don’t think I’ve seen a snake for a long time.

    Faith Cornell

  2. Lindaon 12 Aug 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I too saw the snake on the same bridge several weeks ago. It was right by my foot when it decided to leave and I watched it slowly lower itself underneath the bridge, between wood beams. There’s a hollow space there–a perfect snakey den.

  3. Anne Curtison 14 Aug 2009 at 12:40 am

    Several years ago, while walking our dog in Upper Frick (yes, it seems I never go anywhere except w/ the dog!) we happened upon a commotion at the turn to the Boy Scout Area. There were two large black rat snakes near the trees. People were gathered there, trying to figure out what they were and what to do. Dogs were milling about and people keeping them under control. Fortunately, my friend had grown up, like Faith C., in the country, and recognized them. She said they were trying to get to the lower swale, where there was water and safety. It was a very hot day, and there was no water nearby. She poured her water into our dog bowl, and offered it to them, hiding her hand behind. THEY DRANK! Or tasted it, actually. It is an experience I will never forget, and I thank Louisa for it.

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