Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Snake Strike

Waiting to come inside - REK
This spring snake season open with the mid-March appearance of our resident Western Rat Snake stretched out by our front door.  It usually is quite calm, moving slowly away if we get within a few feet, otherwise quite content to rest, presumable awaiting the arrival of the next small mammal.  Unfortunately, it makes a good living at our rural house.

This rat snake, Pantherophis obsoletus, moves cautiously at what appears to be its top speed even when disturbed.  This is deceptive as demonstrated by recent research.  Contrary to popular belief, a rat snake can strike its prey with the same speed as a rattlesnake.

Research reported in Nytimes.com shows a video comparison of P. obsoletus against a cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), and the western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox).  This dramatic strike speed in the video is equivalent to a car going 0-60 mph in less than a 10th of a second.  You can then compare the strike speed with the human's reaction in this video.

Snake-bite Jon - REK
My only experiences with holding a rat snake began with control of its head while stuck on a glue trap.  A handy hint for country living - you can free a snake (and in our case also a bat) by applying vegetable oil to dissolve the glue.  While a rat snake is not venomous, its bite can hurt.  The message here is don't think you can grab one before it grabs you.

Thanks to Dave Shanholtzer for sending the link. 

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