Friday, June 27, 2014

Snake - Why surprises in ice cream pails are the best kinds of surprises...

I work in a government office with "Conservation" in its name.  To the public, this implies that the people who work in the office are experts on anything having to do with nature.  Therefor, people come in to the office with all manner of questions.

One of the most common (and one of my favorite questions) is "Does anyone know what THIS is?" 

At that point they usually produce either a jar with one or more insects in it or a handful of wilted plants.

Yesterday we had something more interesting brought into the office.

This little beauty is a young Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos).  It was only about 12 inches long.  A couple brought it to our office in an ice cream pail.  After I identified it for them I released it into the field behind our office.  The couple had no interest in taking it back home.

When Hognose Snakes feel threatened they flatten their heads and puff up their bodies to make themselves look more intimidating.  In Michigan many people refer to them as "Puff Adders" because of this.

Once puffed up, they then often raise their head and tail and do their best rattlesnake imitation.  This pose probably helps them escape from some predators but often causes their unnecessary death when confronted by humans.  People see that pose and think they are encountering a "dangerous" snake.  Unfortunately their next action is often to look for something to kill the snake.

Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)

Eastern Hognose Snakes are not dangerous to anything other than amphibians.  They are major predators of frogs and toads.  If you see one, please leave it alone.
Eastern Hognose Snake holding its "rattlesnake" pose

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