Thursday, June 1, 2017

Yakima snake protector

Wendy Shaw with petite "night snake" and Mark Fuzie, English professor and poet at Yakima Valley College

To paraphrase a line from the original TV series Twin Peaks, "The snakes are not what they seem." And since I was in the Pacific Northwest at the time, borrowing from David Lynch & Mark Frost seems appropriate.

Snakes are not what they seem, since many many people seem to think they are sneaky demons. But they are much more cautious of us than we should be of them. And why not? We have been chopping off their heads with garden hoes for centuries. (Have garden hoes been around for centuries?  I must check that.)

They are predators. They eat mice, insects, lizards, fish, frogs, even other snakes. They're low to the ground. It's that simple.  

There's an absolute beauty to the way a snake moves, an economy of motion. Streamlined, without the benefit of legs which they evolved away from, they get along just fine. Their bodies are muscular and their ventral (belly) scales are large, oblong and especially low friction enabling the snake to grip the ground for traction, although they are not that good on asphalt. Crossing a road can be difficult.

So why all this about snakes? 

At the Yakima Valley College Earth Fest that I attended recently, I met Wendy Shaw a self-confessed snake protector and rescuer. She approached my naturalist table with a completely docile night snake (Hypsiglena torquata) and we talked all things snake especially the one she had weaving itself through and around her fingers.

"They have a unique defensive posture, which is pretty adorable," emailed Wendy. "They form a compact little coil rather like frosting on a cupcake. I caught one in the act last summer during a routine snake rescue patrol and snapped a couple of shots before scooping him off to safety."

Rescue patrol? Wendy's hobby/avocation/passion is saving snakes at night from the local roads before they become roadkill but more about that in an upcoming post.

Until then, attend my Snake-ology class at Ijams this Sunday, June 4 at 2 p.m. To preregister call 577-4717, ext. 110.

For other posts on my trip to Yakima, click:

Night snake cupcake, defensive posture

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