Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tasting the Air

Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)
McDonalds Corners, Lanark Highlands
June 2011

A lifelong admirer of all native things ophidian, I can never understand why snakes always get a bad rap in the world at large.  Of course there are no poisonous snakes in Canada to worry about except the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, (Sistrurus catenatus), and that gorgeous creature is rare due to persecution and the loss of its habitat - it has been designated as Threatened by the various Canadian committees responsible for such things.

The name massasauga means "great river-mouth" in Algonquian Chippewa and probably refers to the snake's original habitat, bogs and marshes near northern river deltas.  Shy and reclusive by nature, the only venomous pit viper in Canada subsists on rodents and other reptiles, and it is rather small, generally less than thirty inches in length. Instances of it actually biting anyone are rare, usually occurring when someone picks it up or accidentally walks on it while hiking. The north woods will be a poorer place without the Massasauga if that sad day ever comes.

This "garter" was large as the species goes, almost four feet in length.  The scales were artfully patterned, the eyes round and lustrous, the forked tongue scarlet and tipped with black, the interior of the mouth scarlet too.  In and out when the snake's tongue, tasting the air and transmitting its findings to the chemical receptors of the Jacobsen gland in the roof of its mouth. Through its tongue, the snake experiences the great wide world and makes sense of the environment in which it lives.

For some reason or other, the flicking of a snake's tongue is often thought to be an aggressive gesture, but it just isn't so, and I always enjoy watching them sample the living world.

8 comments:

girlunwinding said...

Those are some great photos of the snake. I love the red and black of its tongue. Very well done. I like snakes per say. They are fascinating.
Enjoy the day!
Peace~
Dawn

Tabor said...

He was certainly exploring the air.

the wild magnolia said...

Snakes are mystery to me, in that they are rarely seen.

Stellar photographs giving us a birds eye view to enjoy the svelte body, and meticulous design, and engaging color.

Thank you, for sharing!

Happy Sunday.

Jaliya said...

I have fond memories of garter snakes, thanks to my older brother who kept three or four in a terrarium when I was about ten. One day we plotted a devious scheme: to sneak the snakes into our eldest sister's bed while she was in the bathroom. After we slid the snakes under the blankets, we hid ... Her screams just about blew the roof off the house! Mission accomplished! :-D

I found it comforting to let the garters slither along my arms and legs ... the fluid grace of snakes has always enthralled me.

My poor sister: she still shrieks at the sight of a snake!

GreenWhisper said...

WoW! so beautiful :)
fantastic shots, thanks for sharing them.

xx

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Beautiful image
You describe them so wonderfully
But I still do not like to come
across a snake on my walk
in the woods :)

Guy said...

Hi Cate

Lovely shots of a beautiful creature.

Guy

Braydon said...

great thanks for posting them here superb
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