Thursday, June 18, 2009

Eastern Milksnake

When I got home from grocery shopping I pulled up to back door to unload. I made one trip in and when I came out... OMG! There was a snake skin on the cement at the foot of the steps. We find garter snake skins all the time around here.. in the stone walls and wood piles. But this was huge and something told me this wasn't a garter snake. I brought it in and measured it. It was 42"! That's almost as long as my 7 year old daughter is tall.
I looked in our Field Guide to New England and it said garter snakes grow to 22". I couldn't quite match the coloration (dark tan and light tan bands) to anything in the field guide, so I hit the internet looking for Vermont snakes. I found the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas Project with a phone number. Being curious (and a little apprehensive) about what was lurking in my backyard, I called. I was dumbfounded when the phone was answered with a "hello". I was expecting some lab or research facility. Apparently, this is a one-man operation. "Uh, hi. Is this the... uh... the snake people?"

"Yes, you want to speak with my husband, " whom she put on the phone.

I told him about my find and its markings, he identified it as a Milksnake, sometimes called a Spotted Adder, which is a misnomer since it isn't an adder at all. With that size skin, it's definitely a mature adult. They quite common in Vermont. (Funny I've never seen one in my life.) He told me it was probably feeding on mice and rats. (At least I know it won't be feeding on my dog.) There are plenty of mice in the fields around here. He told me it might get in the house if it follows a mouse in. (Um, no thank you.) But he reassured me that it's harmless and we could pick it up and put it back outside. (Again, no thank you.) Finally, he told me that the snake is probably not quite that long as the skin stretches up to 20% as it comes off. (Thank you.)


Tammie said...

oh my goodness that would freak me out.
i see snakes in the yard from time to time, mostly just the harmless black ones but no matter how harmless, the large ones still give me the willies.

Tammie said...

also...when i first clicked on this post i thought the title was "eastern milkshake." and i got all excited thinking this was going to be a post about frozen dairy treats. imagine my disappointment.

you totally owe me a milkshake recipe!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Tammie--MilkSHAKE!! I found a big snake skin my yard the other day too. Perfectly happy that it was empty, thank you very much!

Wonderful said...

I hate snakes, I would've been so freaked out!!! Glad that it's nothing too bad.

Clare said...

THUD. That is me hitting the deck after fainting.

Liz said...

Oh how cool. The science geek in me wishes I could have been there exploring that skin with your daughter. I thought you said milkshake too! too funny.

Lorilee said...

I see garter snakes frequently too! My brother and his wife have to be very careful. They have killed over a dozen copperheads in their backyard!!! With the drought in South Texas, the snakes are coming around homes looking for moisture!

Kitt said...

Wow, awesome! Nice to know it's a benevolent snake. I wonder why it chose to disrobe on your steps. Maybe the cement was just the right roughness?

Kevin said...

Just found one IN my house, and searching to see what to do. Good to know it's harmless, although it seems rather angry, and does not care much for the dogs' curiosity.

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