Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis¹
Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?† For some reason people don’t like them. Even a badass like Indiana Jones doesn’t like them. I understand some kinds are venomous, and others are huge constrictors, but most are totally harmless. Doesn’t stop people from freaking out whenever they see one. I mean, they get total panic when they see one. Even this kind. The eastern garter snake.
And yeah, it is a pretty wussy animal. No claws, not very smart, it is rather small,and it has tiny teeth. It’s preferred method of self-preservation is to get the hell out of there. Fast. If that doesn’t work, it produces a rather smelly slime to convince predators to eat something that doesn’t taste quite so bad¹. They also often bite¹, but can’t do any real damage and if they are lucky they might break the skin. If they are lucky.² Though after a few minutes of handling, they will often calm down.¹ Not sure why.
These guys are found all over New England.¹ They grow to be about 26 inches long,³ but the largest on record was 47.8 inches.³ Females are generally larger than males.³ They are dark in color with yellow stripes, and if you look closely, they will have a subtle dark spots on the darker sections.³ They are not the only garter snake native to New England. The eastern ribbon snake looks similar and is even wussier than the eastern garter snake.‡
They like to live in moist vegetation,¹ east small vertebrates and invertebrates¹ and tend to be active in the day.¹ This guy in the picture above was sunning himself in some leaves. In winter they hibernate in in large numbers in underground dens.¹
So seriously, if you see on of these guys, don’t panic, they won’t bother you, and really can’t do much to harm you. Just remember all they want is to be left alone and eat vermin.
¹ Behler, John L and King F. Wayne. “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians” Pgs 674-6 1997. Chanitcleer Press
²Author Unknown. Snake Removal Nationwide Service http://www.snake-removal.com/garter.html 12JUN2016
³Author Unknown. Wikipedia “Eastern Garter Snake” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Garter_Snake 12JUN2016
† For those of you not in the know, this was said by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and if you have not seen this movie, then get off your ass and see it, now!
‡ Author Unknown. Wikipedia. Garter Snake https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garter_snake 12JUN2016
Photo credit: me