Monday, July 15, 2013

Readers Write In: What is this West Virginia Snake?

This snake was found in my friend's yard in WV.. What kind is it? Does it seem like snakes are worse this year than normal?

Bridget
West Virginia

    Well, "worse" is relative. If was coming across a lot of snakes I would think it was a good year. In any case, I think Bridget, who wrote in last month about a mystery watersnake, has had her fill of snake encounters this year. Although, based on the condition of today's mystery snake, I imagine the snakes would also like to limit the number of interactions.

   Snakes are secretive animals. But, they are moving around, which may make them noticeable. Snakes move when they are searching for prey, looking for mates, trying to find a suitable place to escape the summer heat (or winter cold) or when young are dispersing from their nest (or place of birth). 

    However, for every one individual snake we do see, there are probably a dozen or so in the immediate vicinity that we never even know are there. I think this introduces an element of randomness to the number of snakes we actually observe. The number of snakes we see probably has as much to do with our behavior as the size of a snake population. If you spend a lot of time outdoors (especially at the right time of day and year), you're more likely to see snakes. 

    My guess is that the number of snakes this year is about normal. Notably, although Bridget isn't the only West Virginian noticing a lot of serpents, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources doesn't think anything out of the ordinary is going on.

  But onto the task at hand. I suggested that if Bridget viewed some past snake identification challenges, the identity of this unlucky visitor would become clear, but just in case, please identify this animal below. As always, please be clear regarding how you made the identification, but in addition and to keep things interesting, please include one reason why one might enjoy having one of these animals around (try not to duplicate answers and I'll give bonus points for creativity).

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