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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Close Encounter of the Baby Garter Snake Kind

By Vicki E. Jones

It was in late spring just a few years ago. Everything was lush and green and it was a beautiful spring day, just perfect for a long brisk walk around the wooded walking and bike trail that ends right next to our house.

I was walking along listening to the birds singing when I saw a very small creature up ahead. I stared in disbelief. There, a good 25 or 30 feet away, was the tiniest garter snake I had ever seen in my life.

It wasn’t unusual to see a garter snake on the walking trail but this one appeared to be a baby. It was about eight inches long and incredibly thin with a very tiny head.

With every other garter snake I had encountered in my life, it would either stretch out straight when humans approached and hold perfectly still, mimicking a stick, or slither quickly across the trail and into the grass to get away to where no one could see it. This baby snake, though, appeared to be an itsy bitsy snake with a great BIG temper.

The teeny little snake was already coiled up into striking position. it opened its unhinged jaws as wide as it could, which certainly wasn’t very wide with such a little head, and hissed at me. Then it tried to strike out at me.

Of course, it was limited to reaching an object eight inches away when it tried to strike and the bite from a creature that tiny wouldn’t even be a pinch but that didn’t stop the little snake.

I started laughing and that either alarmed or angered the baby snake. It hissed repeatedly and then struck out again hoping to bite this intruder that was 25 or 30 feet away when it could only extend itself to eight inches. I began laughing harder.

The harder I laughed, the more the snake hissed and tried to strike out. Finally, realizing the little snake totally lacked the instincts to pretend to be a stick to not be noticed or slither away into the thick grass to not be seen, I gave it a wide birth and continued my brisk walk, still laughing.

I glanced back when I was well past the little snake and it was still there, still coiled and ready to strike at anything threatening that got too close - which to this tiny creature meant anything approaching at a distance that wasn’t close enough to make any contact with the intruder at all.

I concluded that this snake would have a short life expectancy. A coiled tiny snake is very visible to birds that eat snakes flying overhead or nearby and is a very tasty morsel to them. I had my doubts that it would live to be an 18 to 39 inch adult. And all because it was a very little snake with a very big temper.

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Delightful story. I'm rooting for the snake, but I think you're right; he's breakfast, and strictly for the birds.

This is a fun story told cleverly. Is it possible that even animals hate to be laughed at? I always enjoy your stories.

Hi Vicky,

I really enjoyed this story but must admit that even if the snake was tiny, I still would have avoided it.

Nice writing!

I know young men like that. They get grabbed by winged things, too. Great little story.

Thank you, everyone! Would you believe that when I was walking on the trail this afternoon I nearly stepped on a skinny adult garter snake? It was holding still and pretending to be a stick, but slightly curved - not straight - and I thought it was a Catalpa tree seed pod. It looked just like it. It had the good sense to slither away at lightning-fast speed into the grass. I had no idea a snake was there. I don't go near adult snakes. Fortunately, this one had normal instincts.

Are you sure it wasn't a baby rattler? It sounds like one. Do garter snakes strike out like that? I know garter shakes love to eat newts; in fact they are the only predator since newts are toxic to anyone else! Interesting encounter, thanks!

Ooh, so charming! And charmingly written.

Thank you. Baby rattlers have a rattle, and wedge-shaped head, and fangs. They are thicker-bodied. Garter snakes are very skinny with a tiny head and no fangs. It was just a tiny little snake that lacked the instincts and had a bad temper.

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