7.26.12 Snake Eyes

Red eyes 790 xxx
photos by george billard
The greater diversity of plants we have in our garden, the more creatures we attract. Fewer chimpmunks are roaming around the rock walls that surround our raised beds, and now we know why: the snakes have arrived! I love snakes and am very fascinated by them. I adore their gorgeous skin and have not been above spending close to $1,000 on a python Bottega Veneta bag. But that was in another life. Now I prefer to admire them alive and in my own yard. We have established that there are at least five and are beginning to understand their habits—when they like to take the sun, when they are on the move, when they rest. It's all about being warm, but not too warm. I am slightly relieved that these are just common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) because they only have a tiny bit of venom which doesn't affect humans.
Snake in borage 790 xxx
out for a forage in the borage
Like all snakes, garter snakes are carnivorous. They eat pretty much anything they can overpower, including slugs, worms, lizards, frogs, rodents and sometimes eggs. Food is swallowed whole. I don't really want to see a snake eating one of our sweet garden frogs, but I am kind of curious about the way they unhinge their jaws to open wide.
2 snakes 790 xxx
double jeopardy
You may have noticed, above, that these photos were not taken by me. I'm not scared to get close—I even petted one with a small stick the other day!—but it takes a bit of patience to get these shots, and I'm kind of short on that. I did, however, sit still for quite a long time the other day when we spied two eagles and two nests in a new secret spot we've discovered, just a short walk from our house.
Blue eyes 790 xxx
ol' blue eyes
The snake in the first photo has eyes with a reddish gleam. This one's are distinctly blue. Not sure what to make of this. Any ideas? Their eyes are always open. I read that a snake's eyes will turn a milky color when it's preparing to shed. In fact, its whole body becomes covered with a milky fluid that separates the old skin from the new.
Shed skin 790 xxx
sliding scale
The only snakeskins I collect these days look like this. On our lake property in Forestburgh, on the periphery of a cracked cement slab that is part of some old foundation, we have found several shed snakeskins. From the size and markings, we have deduced that they are most likely Timber rattlers or copperheads! I am a tad freaked out by this, but as yet we have not come across any live specimens.
Shed skin eye 790 xxx
close-up lens
My favorite part of this skin, besides the incredible pattern of the scales, is the fact that you can plainly see the clear, convex eye coverings. Like Eve, I am sorely tempted by the sensuous contours and sinuous slitherings of this magnificent creature.


I've always been fascinated by snakes, lizards and spiders. As kids we were lucky to have many canyon's and fields to roam with an abundance of garter, king and rattle snakes. No snakes at my current home except an escaped garter snake several years ago. I do get an occasional lizard and the spiders are always fun to watch.
Fred on July 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm —
Amazing shots! I share your fascination with snakes. Love blue eyes - have not seen that before. I used to walk barefoot in the Copperhead infested woods behind our home when I was a teen. One with nature, I had no fear!
Jan on July 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm —
A woman posted on my Facebook page that the cloudy blue eyes are a sign of incipient shedding, so I will be on the lookout for new skin!
laura on July 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm —
I just had the cutest 'baby' snake hiss at me while working at clients woodland garden. My first inclination was to pick it up because it was adorable (very thin and green with a beautiful pattern) but it hissed and slithered away into the woods. I then noticed a rather large brown bird just hanging around nearby and thought perhaps the bird was stalking the snake for lunch. Glad I interrupted it's plans.
Suzinn Weiss on July 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm —
May I use the snake skin picture for my blog? Thanks.
Ann on August 12, 2012 at 11:05 pm —
Will do, thanks!!
Ann on August 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm —
Sure, Ann, thanks for asking. Just please link back to my blog.
laura on August 12, 2012 at 11:33 pm —