Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Dead Garter Snake In The Woods

I have been looking up a lot while walking in the woods this winter.  That's because I have been lucky enough to see the Barred Owl several times.  While the dogs are sniffing and romping  I check out the top branches of the white pines to see if the owl is tucked in for a day time nap.  So I was very surprised on the morning of January eighteenth when I glanced down on the trail and just about stepped on a snake.  What?  A snake in winter, out on the trail, in snow and cold temperatures?  I immediately looked up to see if a hawk or owl was perched above me ready to attack my head for being between it and its scaly meal.  Nothing.  I took a closer look at the snake and it was certainly dead.  I noted a rip in its skin with some guts hanging out.  Had it been bitten by a bird of prey, roughed up by a Red Fox?  As my morning coffee kicked in I thought of what might have happened.  A couple of days prior to the eighteenth, much of the snow cover had melted.  The stream which cuts through the trail was running high and by passed an old cistern.  The flow of water made the trail impassable.  It also churned up a lot of leaf litter and organic matter.  Was the snake holed up in the stream's bank or the old cistern and flooded out?  Had it then been discovered by the fox whose tracks can be seen crisscrossing the woods and stream in this area?  Or was the snake spotted and snatched up in the talons of the Barred Owl or Red-tailed Hawk?  Why not devoured?  Maybe it's because without  snow cover mice were easier to see and catch and are a preferred meal?  Drop the snake and grab a mouse!  After a couple of days,  the snake was flipped over and off the trail by a foot or so.  Hhmm...  Then it snowed.  What will be nature's next move?   

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