6.22.2006

Reassuring Numbers

Way back in May of 1978 I made my first ever trip to the millpond. I didn't know then that it was going to become my home, I was just coming to see that cute guy I had met at the beach that March. You know that cute guy as Treebeard. But I digress...this is not a post about love at first sight :)

This is a post about snakes. Back in May of 1978 there seemed to be a snake in every tree and bush out in pond. I should know, Treebeard canoed me under or by just about every single one of them -- and was greatly pleased when I didn't scream or squeal. He was even more pleased when I wanted to see them up-close (hehe, little did he know his bachelor days were numbered. Whoops, there I go again...)

Anyway, sometime in the 80s we began to notice that the number of snakes we saw on the pond had decreased by quite a bit. To some people this may not seem like anything to worry about, but to us it was cause for concern. It got to the point that it was remarkable if we even saw a snake while we were out on the water. We never were able to determine why our snake populations decreased. No study was ever done.

Over the past three years, however, we have noticed something of a comeback. It is not unusual to see twenty or thirty snakes during a day on the water. Sometimes we see significantly higher numbers. It is very reassuring.

I can offer no valid explanation for the decline and seeming recovery, I'm just glad to see it.

Below are pictures of eight of the 30+ snakes we saw last weekend. The majority of the snakes were brown water snakes, Nerodia taxispilota. You might notice that most of the browns are quite fat. Could be that the majority of snakes we saw were carrying young. Brown water snakes give live birth and can produce from 15 to 60 neonates.


black rat snake


brown water snake


brown water snake 2


brown water snake 3


brown snake 4


brown water snake 5


brown water snake 6


brown water snake 7

12 comments:

Gfunny72 said...

Love the pics! Here in Maryand I'm lucky to find one to a few snakes much less 20-30! WOW!

Cindy Lee said...

Are brown water snakes poisonous? What do they eat? Are they normally aggressive? I do not kill snakes when I see them, I have even been known to move them out of the road (using a very long stick) but they give me the e-bee gee-bees. Now that I have some ideal about what this snake looks like what else should I know about it.

Jenn said...

That's beautiful.

Did you notice a dip and surge in the frog population over that time? Or was it, mysteriously, just snakes?

pablo said...

Snake number three is especially scary. Is it really that huge, or is the branch actually small?

meresy_g said...

Cool snake pictures. I am not a lover of snakes. I am curious about them and not afraid of them if I see them and they are not a suprise. But I do not like to be suprised by snakes. Water snakes (around here mostly Nerodia sipedon sipedon)in my humble opinion, are agressive/territorial. Most snakes will leave when they see you, but not them. They will stand their ground. And will bite repeatedly. Don't like em.

SquirrleyMojo said...

Fascinating transition:

"this is not a post about love at first sight :)

This is a post about snakes."

The difference (for some . . .)??? LOL

Floridacracker said...

Very impressive snake girth.

Those poor water snakes are automatically "cotton mouths" in the local culture. They catch hell for it...

...that's why we educate I guess.

swamp4me said...

Gfunny72,
you'll have to plan a trip down to NC so you can see some snakes -- we have plenty!

Cindy Lee,
brown water snakes are not poisonous. They eat mostly fish. Water snakes tend to be aggressive if you try to hamdle them. Most brown water snakes simply slide off into the water when you get close. I am very glad that you don't kill snakes -- I wish more people would follow your lead.

Jenn,
there did not seem to be a decrease in frog or fish populations over the same time period.

Pablo,
snake number 3 was quite large -- a very fine old lady.

meresy_g,
I don't find the browns to hold their ground as strongly as some other species, but they do not like to be handled and are quick to bite. Most of the time they just slide off their branch and into the water when you get too close.

SQMojo,
I didn't even notice my transition -- leave it to the English prof! Yes, I imagine for some that "love" and "snake" are not words that go together.

swamp4me said...

FC,
it's the same around here - every water snake is a "moccasin." I have spent many an hour explaining that that's simply not true. Some people seem to get the message -- others just think I'm crazy :)

catherine said...

Chunky little suckers, aren't they? You live in such an Eden, and despite the presence of snakes, I mean no religious comment.

Love your site. Catherine

lené said...

Brown Water Snake 6 really gives a sense of how large it is. Wow!

Betsy said...

Be careful of those brown water snakes (Nerodia) -- they do not hesitate to bite. I speak from experience!