Virginia Snakes, Black and Otherwise
Someone asked me recently if I knew for sure that it was a “black snake” that tried to eat our young, departed hen last week.
That question reminded me of a “rant” I’d read recently regarding the imprecision of “black snake” as there is no such creature by that name. Yes, there are several more or less black snakes, but their full names hold more information.
One mostly-black snake with which I was quite familiar in Alabama where I did my herpetology course work was the eastern king snake–the most common variety in the vicinity of Auburn University was black with some faint yellow or white bands or speckles. I have always looked carefully to see if the black snakes we encounter on Goose Creek might be king snakes.
I won’t bother checking anymore. Eastern king snakes are not found outside the five western-most counties in Virginia.
So our snakes that are black are either black racers (more slender, more prone to strike or make a very quick get-away) or what I learned as “black rat snake” that is now in a genus different from the one I learned decades ago, and is referred to officially as the Eastern Rat Snake, a generally more docile resident of every county in Virginia, and the only snake to reach the length of six feet.
I’d be willing to bet our egg-eating rat snake is approaching that length. They are also noted as skilled climbers, and have “keeled scales” to give them a bit more friction as they climb to reach bird eggs or squirrel nests.
Also while browsing the distributions of Virginia’s herps, the range maps reinforce my contention that a friend almost certainly did NOT find a water moccasin in his Floyd County yard—and if so, a “friend” must have relocated one from far eastern Virginia just for him.
And then in the Virginia list of snakes you run across lovely little creatures I have not seen since we moved to Floyd–like the attractive and mild-mannered Northern Red-bellied snake, whose range extends west to include Montgomery to the north, Patrick and Franklin south, and all counties east of us. Makes me think this might be a matter of the scarcity of herpetologists in the county. I’m on the job!
However, the Rough Green Snake pictured above was a new record for Floyd County. I filled out all the paperwork a few years ago, but the state map still shows this snake not recorded from Floyd County.
You can see range maps for these particular snakes all on a page I created via Posterous, because I know you share my interest in snakes. Right?