We went on a little Safari yesterday, and saw a variety of wonderful, original, Floridians. There was a young gentleman out there that was tending to some Box turtles and we started talking about the different reptiles we had seen in the wild. When I mentioned the Indigo snake, he got excited and told me about a lecture that was going to occur in the very place we were now standing. The director of the Orianne Society, Fred Antonio and a colleague of his from the Sanford Zoo brought in some interesting local snakes and gave a great presentation on common finds from the small, like the Ring Neck and Florida Crowned snake to the Yellow Rats, Pine, Coachwhip and my favorite, the Indigo. I finally got to see a very nice specimen of a Pine Snake.
Apparently the Pine Snakes, though fairly large, spend a lot of the time underground searching for Gophers. My daughter was a little upset when Fred told the story of a gentleman who was pulled over on Hwy 27 with a shovel. Fred turned around to see what he was doing, and before he could get there the man had already destroyed one of these beautiful animals. He claimed he was killing a Rattlesnake which Drew still found upsetting. In his ignorance, I guess he thought he was performing a service that we really don't need. I would have challenged him over a Rattle snake too. I will be keeping an eye for these; some of the natural patterns are beautiful and all these animals need to be protected. At times I get a little too caught up in the morphs that are produced, but there are some amazing snakes and lizards with plenty of variation in their natural state. You just have to get outside and explore.
The snake above is an Eastern Hognose Snake, and I have not seen many of these. I usually come across the Souther Hognose with the much more pronounced upper lip. Most of these I have seen are due to neighbors asking me to remove a Pigmy Rattler. Out of the 10 times I have gone to check this out, only one of the Pigmy rattlers was actually a Pigmy Rattler. The Hognose snake feeds largely on toads and I have found one with the toad in its mouth. They are becoming less common and it is a shame since they are lovely and fascinating creatures who are also quite the drama queens of the snake world. They will puff like adder, hiss, then if that doesn't work they will act as if they are dying. They let off a musk that I guess indicates death and decay to predators, and then lie perfectly still with the inside of their mouth showing. My daughters thought I killed the snake the first time they witnessed this behavior. We laid him down by the bromeliads and sat down in some lawn chairs several yards away. It took about 15 minutes, but then he straightened himself out and slithered away.
Forty years old and still in awe of the outdoors.