I was deep in thought as I pulled weeds in front of the Dorsey's Knob Lodge, when someone yelled for me from across the parking lot. I could detect a certain sense of urgency in his voice. Hurrying toward him and his family, he said that they had seen a snake and that he was concerned that it might be venomous. When I got closer, he pointed out a four foot long dark-colored snake crawling slowly through the grass along the roadside. After taking a closer look, I happily announced that it was a Black Ratsnake and that it was harmless...unless you happen to be a mouse or other small rodent. Although Black Ratsnakes might bite if cornered or harassed, they basically just want to be left alone.
During the three months that I have been park caretaker at Dorsey's Knob Park, I have seen only one other species of snake - the Eastern Gartersnake. In general, Eastern Gartersnakes are not overly aggressive, however, this one was. As can be seen in my photograph below, they sometimes flatten their heads when they assume a striking posture. Perhaps they think it makes them look more intimidating. Regardless, I gave it plenty of space.
This particular snake had a good reason to be upset with me. I had almost hit it accidentally with a string trimmer while cutting grass near the Stacy Groscup Center.
Although it might have simply been upset, I have another theory. I suspect that this particular snake might have been pregnant. Yes, pregnant. Although many species of snakes, such as Black Ratsnakes, lay eggs, Eastern Gartersnakes actually give birth to live young. In fact, they can have as many as eighty or so babies at one time.
I haven't seen any three inch long baby Gartersnakes crawling around Dorsey's Knob Park, but you can rest assured that I'll be keeping my eyes open.
Field Notes from Dorsey's Knob
Thoughts and observations on the natural history and current happenings at Dorsey's Knob Park.
About the Author
John Boback is a naturalist, historian, environmental educator and caretaker at Dorsey's Knob Park. He can often be seen around the park staring intently into the trees through binoculars or crouched down trying to photograph a wildflower or an interesting insect. If you see him, take a moment to say hello.