A Bullsnake Imitating a Rattler (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 27 Jun 2024

A Bullsnake Imitating a Rattler

Riding my bike to the market, I came across a bullsnake stretched across the road, sunning itself ... in danger of becoming snake pizza.

I nudged it to try to get it to move off the road, which annoyed it into doing its pretend-rattlesnake defensive posture. Bullsnakes are harmless and beneficial, but they look a little like rattlers, and when they're feeling defensive they vibrate their tails. If there are any dry leaves around, this sounds a little like a rattlesnake, but it doesn't do much when sitting on bare asphalt.

I had a pet gopher snake as a teenager (gopher snakes and bullsnakes are basically regional variations of the same snake). The one I had was about four feet long, almost exactly the same size as the one today. Bullsnakes here get a lot bigger than that, so this was a youngster.

Bull and gopher snakes are generally fairly tame and reluctant to bite. In the four or five years I had "Goph" (we didn't name him; we adopted him from the film company where my mom worked after they finished their Reptiles special), I was only bitten once and it was entirely my fault. I had been feeding him, and after the third mouse, I had no more to give him, so I started to put the water dish back into his terrarium (I moved the dish out of the way when feeding, to give him more room to work without risk of spills). Snakes don't have particularly good vision, and he must have thought I was delivering another mouse, so he struck and ended up sinking a tooth into my finger.

Surprising myself, I did the right thing. Most non-venomous snakes have teeth that curve back, so if you're bitten, don't pull away since that might tear the wound. Instead, push forward, which makes the snake open its mouth and releases you from the bite. I'd read this many times, but I was pleased and surprised that I actually did it when the time came.

It didn't particularly hurt. Gopher snake teeth are short and extremely sharp; it felt almost exactly like a finger-prick blood draw at the doctor's office.

I know this is anthropomorphizing, but "Goph" acted horribly embarrassed. He drew back right away and slunk to the far corner of his terrarium. Gopher/bull snakes really don't generally bite animals bigger than mice or gophers, even if their threat posture looks scary.

Anyway, today, after failing to persuade the bullsnake to move on its own (and after shooting the quick video shown above), I distracted it with one hand, brought the other hand around to grab it gently a little behind the head, picked it up and moved it off the road. No snake pizza today.

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[ 12:00 Jun 27, 2024    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

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