My friend and I were peering out from a nature overlook at my local park when she pointed out some movement in the bushes below us. It took us a bit to figure out what was going on but we soon realized we were witnessing the tail-end of a mighty battle between a little ribbon snake and one unlucky anole. Predation isn’t always easy to watch in the wild but it is still an important behavior that can teach us a ton about animal populations. Ribbon snakes do not prey on mammals, and will typically only eat “cold-blooded” prey such as fish, newts, earthworms, and frogs. This anole was a pretty big prey item for the ribbon snake to take on, and you can tell from the blood under the snake’s eye that this lizard did not go down without a fight.
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I went out to my spot in the wetlands the other day to enjoy the fine weather and soak up some of the lovely spring sunshine. Turns out I wasn’t the only one with this idea! I chanced upon this dear little banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata) out sunning herself, and I sat down with my camera on the other side of the path to enjoy the sun with her. Though she certainly noticed my presence, this calm little snake was more than happy to share the space with me while she sunbathed.
After I’d been shooting this snake for a little while, an older couple spotted us on the path and frantically warned me that the snake was in fact a highly venomous and aggressive cottonmouth snake... which is definitely not the case here. This is an incredibly common misconception around here, and although I am always in favor of erring on the side of caution when it comes to dangerous wildlife, it does concern me that the harmless banded water snake is so often labeled as a deadly threat and killed as a result. I happily let the couple know that this animal was a non-venomous species and explained the different features that let me know this was a banded water snake. Once they knew she was harmless, they stuck around to watch her with me for a bit and took a few pictures.
While cottonmouths (also known as water moccasins) are from the viper family of snakes, the banded water snake is actually from an entire different family called Colubridae. Colubrid snakes have slender heads and necks and that sweet little puppy dog face that you can see on this gal! If you live in a place where snakes are common, it is very helpful to have at least a passing familiarity with the predominant species in your area. Being able to educate people when a species is a harmless and helpful fixture of the ecosystem is deeply empowering and allows you to advocate for these animals that are so often killed due to mistaken identity. You should never ever kill a snake simply for existing, but to do so to a non-venomous animal that could never hurt you or your pets is especially heinous. Snakes are so unfairly maligned even by people who consider themselves animal lovers, and it breaks my heart to see them thoughtlessly killed so often. Arming yourself with knowledge and standing up for snakes online is a great way to be a steward of wild spaces from your computer or phone!
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