A Season of Snakes

Garter in March

This growing season has been marked by snakes in the garden, since the very first warm day with snakes above ground in March.
Two humorous garter snake episodes followed with snakes in close quarters.
The first was me shuffling my feet while trudging to the compost pile. My toe caught what I assumed was a stick and flipped it into the air. My brain said “how strange, that stick’s rubbery.” Then it landed and took off in a squiggle pattern for the woods. Oops!

The second was determination to finally plant the Monarda that had been languishing in containers for two or more seasons. I hauled several pots to the back of the border to plant them where they would receive plenty of morning sun. After planting the first and second pot and digging the hole for a third one, I looked back to see a beautiful garter snake emerging out of the clump I had just planted! Her tail was still hidden inside the plant. I looked at her and she looked at me. She seemed to say “did you just do what I think you did?”

Both of these episodes had me laughing out loud and feeling a peculiar camaraderie with a reptile species that used to give me the willies.

Finally, today, I nearly repositioned a potted perennial grass on top of something that looked strange at the last second. I thought it might be a piece of metal like a spring lying out in the garden which didn’t make sense. On closer inspection I discovered a young Eastern Milk Snake nestled under leaves. A small portion of his beautiful pattern was showing. I had never seen this type of snake and thought it might be a Michigan (Massasauga) Rattler.

My husband was brave enough to gently pull away the leaves. The snake was small but fierce and repeatedly lunged and bit at the leaves he moved and the twig he was using. It did not coil or rattle. Still, we tried not to touch it while we took some photos.

An online identification search convinced me that this snake is an Eastern Milk Snake. They eat insects and amphibians, but they love to eat rodents. (We have plenty of mice, chipmunks and ground squirrels.) Eastern Milk Snakes are not venomous, which puts my mind at ease.

Eastern Milk Snake

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