Aug 10 2009
If snakes give you the creeps, don’t look at these pictures.
Yesterday was hot and humid so I made sure to get my hiking done early. I was out on the Youghiogeny River bike trail by 8:45am, not “early” for most of you but a feat for me. Bike trails are great in August because there’s usually a breeze and fewer mosquitoes. This proved to be the case. Still, it was hot.
Most of my hike was uneventful but when I got to Cedar Creek two cyclists said, “Watch out on the right. There’s a black snake on the bridge.”
The black rat snake was probably about three feet long but he was coiled up with his tail drooping off the bridge deck so I can’t be sure. He’d been in the middle of the bridge and the cyclists had shoved (or chased) him to the side so he wouldn’t get run over. They warned me he could bite but I knew he wouldn’t leap at me so I got close enough to take his picture.
On my return hike the snake was on the other side of the bridge contemplating another trip toward the middle of the deck. I urged him to get away from the bike traffic and he slid backwards into the void. Did he cling to the underside of the bridge? Black rat snakes can climb trees so maybe this guy climbed the bridge pillar.
I hiked the grassy edge on my way back to the car and halfway there I encountered another black rat snake. He too was contemplating a sprint across the bike path. (He’s the one on the right.) When he stuck out his tongue to smell me he decided not to proceed.
Black rat snakes are relatively harmless to humans. They are non-venomous constrictors who eat rats, mice, other snakes, squirrels, chipmunks, birds and bird eggs.
I saw a lot of birds on my hike so I hope these two snakes were hunting for rodents. Or perhaps they were sunning themselves.
The heat made it a snakey sort of day.
(photos by Kate St. John (using my cell phone). For more information on the bike trail, click here.)