Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Readers Write In: Texas Flood Snake Identification Edition


I'm really pleased to have discovered your blog, as I too am a crusader for snake appreciation, but lack expertise. Although I live in Houston, my house is located on the edge of a vast wilderness area designated for flood water retention. From what you have seen on the news, you will know that we are using that water holding capacity right now, and as a result lots of critters have been displaced. For context, one of the photos attached is the creek behind my house. The top half of the photo is the creek in its normal mode, the lower photo was taken just before midnight Memorial Day. Lightning strikes provided the flash! The creek is back to its normal state, but behind the dam the water level remains extremely high.

The second photo is a snake that hung out at my back door for a while. I called Water Snake, but visitors were most insistent it was some super deadly beast. I went with water snake based on behavior as much as anything else, because it showed no aggression at all. Of course, the poor thing might just have been exhausted. Sorry about the low quality of the photo; the lighting was poor.

Norman R.
Houston, Texas

Dear Dr. Steen,

After reading this great article about you on Slate, I was hoping you might be able to settle a neighborhood debate for me. Recently a homeowner posted this picture to our neighborhood website and asked for help with ID, as the snake in question had crawled all the way up to the porch. This sparked a firestorm of responses, ranging from "copperhead, kill immediately" to "Texas rat snake" to "rattlesnake, kill immediately". Luckily the snake escaped before a sharp shovel could be located. 

We live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and have had an exceptionally wet spring, so we have been seeing all kinds of wildlife that we normally don't encounter. For the record, I think it's a diamond backed water snake. 

Love to hear your input! 


Molly D.
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

Readers: What Are These Animals?

Snake Identification Post Ground Rules

-Guesses are welcome and encouraged. Don't worry if you're not an expert, wrong guesses allow us to talk about how to distinguish between the various species and that's why I run these posts.

-If you can't explain why you think a snake is a particular species, go ahead and just say what you think it is. But otherwise please do let us all know how you identified the animal. If you're wrong, we can explain why. If you're right, this helps everyone learn how to identify snakes, which is the goal of these posts.

-You can safely assume that I know what kind of snake is in the picture, I run these posts because they are outreach opportunities. Please don't send me private e-mails with your guesses, include them below.

-Remember, the person that sent me the picture is probably reading your comments. Although it is frustrating to know that many of these snakes have been killed, these people do want to learn more about them. More snake knowledge will lead to fewer snakes being killed.

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