Friday, May 29, 2009

Snakes in a Woodshed!

Two weeks ago we received a call from a family near Mt.Kisco about two snakes, one large and one small, in their woodshed. Their initial identification led them to believe the snakes were Copperheads. The family kept the shed closed and stayed clear of the area as a precaution.

We were able to stop at the family's home two days later to have a look around and see if maybe the two snakes were still around. We were certain we would not find any snakes since it had been two days since they were spotted. We were also convinced we wouldn't find any Copperheads since they are quite rare in our area, and the surrounding habitat is not typical of that preferred by Copperheads.

The family showed us to the woodshed and cautiously backed away. We were "armed" with leather gloves, a snake hook, and my camera. The gloves and hook were a precaution for dealing with a larger species of snake like a Northern Watersnake or Black Rat Snake. These two species are non-venomous but can be quite difficult to handle when cornered or confronted in a confined space.

Upon opening the doors to the shed we looked and initially saw nothing. With a second glance, a serpentine shape was observed at the top of a stack of kindling wood. The photo below is what we saw. Do you know what it is?
It's an Eastern Milk Snake. They can be easily identified by the light gray body decorated with irregular red blotches outlined with black. The snake's small head, fitting neatly in line with it's slim body, is typical of the numerous non-venomous species of snake in our area.

Milk Snakes feed primarily on mice and other small rodents, and sometimes consume smaller snakes. Their occurrence in rodent-infested barns led to the misconception that they would steal milk from a farmer's cows. Milk Snakes are generally secretive and usually move around at night and spend the day hiding beneath objects like logs, large rocks or old boards. In this case, the woodshed was this snake's preferred place to spend the day.
In the photo above, you can see how slender and delicate this species looks in the hand. Milk Snakes are essentially harmless to humans and pets, and their dietary preferences make them quite an asset for anyone's property. At the family's request, we gladly removed the snake and released it at the sanctuary. The other snake, presumably also a Milk Snake, was not found during our visit.
We were very greatful to be asked to help this family. They exercised equal amounts of caution and respect for an animal they had never encountered before. It was a great opportunity for us to share what we know about this beautiful creature and do a good deed for the family and the snake.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

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