Wednesday, November 02, 2016

"You can't see me."

I've been seeing, for certain definitions of "seeing", garter snakes frequently, in the bush and also in weedy areas. Mostly, all I see is the motion, the sudden shifting of the undergrowth, as the snake slithers out of sight. Sometimes, I even see a hint of tail, a change in the light, now gone.

At the tip of Tyee Spit, I saw two young snakes, slipping quickly away through the tall grass as I approached. But the grass was growing in clumps, and I was able to scoot around the far side and see them emerge, one after the other, cross the gap, and disappear into the thicker weed cover a foot away.

Made my day. But there was another treat in store.

Four steps further on, I came across a large adult, coiled up in a halfway sunny patch at the edge of the weeds. And when I approached, he didn't move. When I knelt down a foot away, he still didn't move. I thought he might be dead, but then he flicked his tongue at me.

Northwestern garter snake.

I took a dozen photos, trying to get all of him in focus. He was aware of me; he bent his head in my direction once or twice, flicked his tongue out, testing my smell, several times. But there was no suggestion of movement along all his long body. He trusted me, or trusted his camouflage; one or the other.

However, it appears that Northwestern Garter Snakes have learned to make the most of their variable colouration.   Studies show that brightly striped snakes flee when faced with a predator.  The snake’s stripes make it difficult to tell exactly what direction and how fast it is moving.  This confuses the predator and increases the chance of escape.    In comparison, spotted and faintly striped garter snakes use their camouflage.  By remaining motionless, the snake avoids detection. (The Reptiles of BC)

The young snakes were darker, and the stripes were visible. This one is paler, and spotted. Maybe that explains his passivity.

Some individuals have stripes down the sides of the body with spots between the back and side stripes.  ...   The colours can appear muted because of the strongly keeled scutes (scales with a ridge running from front to back), a trait shared with all other Garter Snake species. (ditto)

Zooming in to see the pattern of spots, and the scutes, more pronounced on this snake than on others I've looked at.

The colours would blend in with dried weeds. Not so much with fresh, green leaves.

I got to my feet, clumsily waving the camera about. He still didn't move. I left him and went on my way. When I passed the spot again on the next circuit of the spit, he had disappeared. So had the sun. I went home, too.

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful snake. I like the detail you capture in the close up. A very pretty pattern, and easy to see why they blend in so well.


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