Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reptile Rapture

Snakes; I never had a truly concrete feeling about this slithery reptile. Squeamish? Not exactly. Adoring? Far from it. Fortunately, my experiences with these slinking species at the ACEC involved only a long-thought harmless kind: garter snakes.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
I’ve gotten quite acquainted with the garter snake folk around the Center. From lurking in canoes to creeping through a game of freeze tag, they enliven nearly every camp activity. My first encounter pushed my perception farther from the “adoring” end of the spectrum.  Imagine a gaggle of tween nature girls, anxious to participate in one of the most coveted activities during camp: canoeing. After completing what we’d assumed was a thorough snake-check, the girls were off sailing, in hot pursuit of a less threatening reptile. Minutes later, screams erupt from a canoe drifting in the middle of Will’s Marsh.                                    

                                                                                                                                                                                      “THERE’S A SNAKE IN OUR BOAT!” Counseling, cooing, coaxing, and still all were too overcome by fear to maneuver the canoe back to shore. It was rescue time. Mattie and I set out in our own canoe, equipped with rope and patience. Upon reaching the frightened vessel, Mattie valiantly tossed the snake to the safety of a bunch of Bull Rush, and we towed the girls to the safety of unconfined space not shared with a slithery stowaway. Here, the girls quickly shed the trauma of such an experience with the help of a turtle’s never-ending fascination. Luckily, no parents were alarmed, but rather tickled by the thought.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            After casual encounters with the creatures throughout my other days at the Center, I became more and more at ease in their presence. While on a lunch break, Carol captured a specimen that was to alter my opinion of them altogether. The young, adventurers of Raptor Rapture were playing in the amphitheater when a fragile garter wiggled through the game. Safely held in a mixed nuts jar, I took time to familiarize the little fellow, and, yes, even hold a snake for the first time. More delicate than an earthworm, he did not even match the width of my pencil. I measured him at approximately 8.5 inches; newborns (born live!) range in size from 6-8 inches, and are typically born between July and September, explaining the presence of such a tiny one.
While studying and building my relationship with the species, Mattie and I discovered that garter snakes are indeed poisonous. They simply lack the means to inject the venom into us, due to an unfortunate pairing of overly large gums and miniscule fangs.  After sharing my snake adventures with my family I learned that a rather unusual gene runs in the family: a fear of snakes. Perhaps the gene stops with me, and I will become the first crazy snake lady produced by a clan of squealing snake-phobics. 
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

By Chrissy Webb, High School Naturalist-in-Training


  1. Great work Chrissy! It certainly was an adventure with those Nature Girls and the snake. I'm glad I had you in the boat with me to calm the riotous girls, even after the snake was gone ;)

  2. Wonderful story and post, Chrissy! I adore your voice and your work. I hope our paths may continue to cross for many years to come... keep growing, living and learning!!!!