Friday, May 16, 2014

Eastern Garter Snake takes on American Toad

Today's class of second graders was sweeping for insects in the field when they came upon this Eastern Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) attempting to feed on an American Toad (Bufo a. americanus).  They were spell bound, watching as the snake maneuvered from side to side trying to swallow its large prey.  

We watched the toad puffing its body, making it more difficult for the snake to engulf it. White bufotoxin oozed from the toad's glands.  All the while, the snake held on, adjusting its jaw and turning sideways, barely making any progress as it tried to inch its way up the toad's body.

We watched for almost 10 minutes before leaving for the wetland to find newly hatched toad tadpoles. The question on everyone's mind, "Who will win?" was never answered. An hour later when we came back to the field, there was no sign of either the snake or the toad.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dekay's Brownsnake

I love accidentally coming upon an animal or plant that I've never seen before.  Yesterday, I discovered this tiny Dekay's brownsnake (Storeria dekayi) on a dusty hiking trail between a beaver pond and a swampy area while taking a group of first graders to pond for invertebrates.  This snake is known for being diurnal during the spring and fall and nocturnal during the hotter summer months. Despite being pretty common, their night-time behavior keeps them from being seen often. They don't mind built-up areas and hide under boards, logs and leaf litter near water.

Such a small snake (8-14") primarily eats small prey, of course, like worms, slugs and soft insects.

March through May is mating time for brownsnakes.  Three-inch babies will be born in late summer.  Dekay's will often hibernate with members of their own species as well as garter and red-bellied snakes. Brownsnakes have keeled or ridged scales.