So yesterday, I’m sitting at my desk and the phone rings with that double-ring that means it’s an internal call. Pat is calling from the front desk. “Um, Jen? Could you please come down here for a minute?”
“Sure,” I answer. “What’s up?”
“There’s a snake in the building.”
“Cool! I’ll be right there!”
It lay quite still on the carpet. Apparently, Pat had walked by it several times thinking it was a stick that she would eventually pick up and throw out. When she approached it, though, it moved!
As you can see, it was just a bitty little thing. But a special one! This is a Short-headed Garter Snake (Thamnophis brachystoma). What’s so special? Well, it’s range, mostly. It has a pretty small one, living in the southern most parts of three western New York counties and parts of Western Pennsylvania. There is one small isolated population near Horseheads in Chemung County, New York.
That map is from a pretty awesome, relatively new book called The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State – a collaboration of several scientists including James P. Gibbs, Alvin R. Breisch, Peter K. Ducey, Glenn Johnson, John Behler, and Richard Bothner. Yeah. If you are a herp nerd living in New York, put this book on your letter to Santa!
Anyway, Short-headed Garters are just adorable little snakes. I guess they can get as long as 22 inches or so, but when I find them, they are pretty small. How this one got into the building, I just don’t know.
The other snake that I’ve seen this week – twice in one day, in fact, is another that rarely grows longer than 20 inches or so… I didn’t have my camera when my Kindergarten group found them, so this picture is from last year:
Far more abundant and widely distributed, this snake can be found from southern Canada to northern Mexico east of the Rockies.
In fall, it is not uncommon to see snakes on the move, heading toward their hibernacula – places where several (sometimes hundreds) of snakes gather to spend the winter.