21 September 2009

Now I know what snakes eat for lunch

Ellie and I had a run-in with a snake this afternoon. I'm telling myself it was a harmless house snake and even though I can't find an exact match for it online, as long as it wasn't a green mamba I'll sleep soundly tonight. (Click on the photo to see it full-size.)

I was settling in with some afternoon studying when I glanced toward the front door and wondered why Ellie was beside herself at the screen, watching a piece of green string out on the patio. Duh, of course that's not green string. I did what anyone would do. Not close the door, but grab my camera and wonder how close I could get before finding out if it was venomous or not.

It was a few feet from the door but because of the screen I couldn't get a good shot. It was green with some blue and it had a white underside (and according to wikipedia, where everything is always correct, that coloration indicates not a mamba). Its "neck" seemed unusually thick. I was ninety percent sure it was a harmless house snake so I opened the door and took a couple steps out (stupidly, I'll admit, in bare feet). My running shoes were just outside the door, but it didn't occur to me to put them on and anyway I might have scared the snake away before I could take a picture. I was able to get around it so I was parallel to it and snap a better photo. 

But then it started moving toward the front door, putting itself between the door and me. There's about an inch of space between the floor and the bottom of the door and I really didn't want the snake going inside, where Ellie was waiting for it not-so-patiently. But I was frozen in place. All I could do was watch it slither over my running shoes, up the screen a few inches, then back down onto the patio. It stopped for a few seconds, then slithered off into the yard. It left behind a present for Ellie and me -- a half-dead, half-digested gecko. So that's why it looked so thick right behind the head. We disturbed its lunch.

As I've been writing this, a third snake species has popped into my head: boomslang. The coloration is similar to the house snakes and they eat chameleons, geckos, and other small reptiles. They are quite venomous. However, they aren't usually terrestrial and even less likely to be out in the open. I'm sticking with house snake.

I'm not afraid of snakes, but I prefer that they stick to their territory and I'll stick to mine. And I really don't want another gecko hunter hanging around. Between Ellie and our woodland kingfisher (he's back; we've had two great sightings this week!), we're on the verge of a gecko shortage.

(I just went back to open the door; it's too stuffy in here with it closed. The half-digested gecko has disappeared.)

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