Monday, June 11, 2012

An Eastern Fox Snake at Magee Marsh...

I was walking along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh when out of the corner of my eye I saw movement to the left in a tree, but when I looked directly at the tree, I saw nothing but dark circles of dappled sunlight. "Hmmm...I know I saw something moving..." went through my mind, until suddenly the "dark circles of dappled sunlight" started sliding into the hollow of the tree. "Wow! Is that a Fox Snake?" I said out loud, and several people looked over...a few scurried away with a shriek when they saw the snake silently sinking into the dead tree, but a few others stayed to watch. "Yes, it is a Fox Snake!" said one older gentleman with a grin on his face. "I've wanted to see one of those for a long time," he continued. "I've wanted to see one for a long time too!" I said. "He looks just like the photos in the books! I've never seen one in the wild--life snake!" :-)

An Eastern Fox Snake (Elaphe gloydi) climbs silently in a dead tree along the boardwalk of Magee Marsh near Cleveland, Ohio. 
Eastern Fox Snakes are not common in Ohio. They are listed as "Species of Concern" by the Ohio Division of Wildlife and can only be found around Lake Erie and Lake Huron in the United States and Canada (Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, click here). I always assumed I'd never see one in the wild because I don't make it up to Lake Erie that often, but in the back of my mind, I was hoping to see one. Just like the Blanding Turtle I saw at Magee (here), I knew there was a chance I'd find an Eastern Fox Snake at Magee too.

The camouflaging colors of an Eastern Fox Snake help it blend into a dead tree. Unfortunately, the same colors sometimes fool people into thinking they are looking at a Copperhead or a Massasauga, both of which are venomous, but the Eastern Fox Snake is nonvenomous and completely harmless to humans. Unfortunately, over the years many have been killed out of fear and mistaken identity! I didn't get to hear it, but the Eastern Fox Snake can vibrate its tail when it's frightened, which often causes people to confuse it with a Timber Rattlesnake. (Source, Ohio DNR, here.)

Eastern Fox Snakes can get pretty big, and this snake was no slouch! I don't know if this snake was over the full-grown height of five feet because a lot of his body was curled in the hollow of the tree. He moved quickly, sinking down into the hole and out of sight much too soon... 

Some Eastern Fox Snakes have a reddish or copper-colored head, and our guy is a prime example. This coppery color is another reason Fox Snakes are often killed after being mistakenly identified as a venomous Copperhead Snake. Copperheads are one of the three venomous snakes found in Ohio, but are mostly found in southeast Ohio...far away from this fellow! 

This snake was beautiful. He had a light brown to yellowish background that matched the dead tree's color perfectly, and the round splotches of dark brown to black color were striking. His reddish head just topped it all off!

I saw this fellow back in May when I was at the Biggest Week in American Birding festival. I spent a lot of time on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh looking for birds, but there's more that just birds living in the Black Swamp. Frogs, turtles, snakes, muscrats, moths, butterflies, the list goes on and on.  So if you have a chance this summer head up to Magee Marsh and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

Natural Treasures of Ohio sweepstakes
Magee Marsh is one of the sites on the Nature Conservancy's Natural Treasures of Ohio sweepstakes (May 22 - August 8). You can enter to win a Honda Insight Hybrid after visiting Magee Marsh! Click here for details on how to win the car.

20 comments:

Kerri said...

He really does have striking markings!
Great captures!

Carol Mattingly said...

I see why he would be mistaken for a venomous snake. He actually quite beautiful. Carol

TexWisGirl said...

you got some great shots of his rich colors and tones!

rebeccainthewoods said...

What a coincidence - I just saw my first Fox Snake last week! There's a photo up on my blog if you're interested. They really are gorgeous snakes. (I think we have the western species here, not the eastern, but I don't really know what the difference is.)

DeanO said...

What a majestic creature and beautiful photographs!

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

What a great post the Fox snake was quite beautiful. I really loved how you captured the various colours.

Regards
Guy

Janice K said...

He is really stricking and colorful, but I think I might have moved a little further away too. I'm glad you got the pictures though so we can all appreciate his beauty

Lois Evensen said...

Yes, yes, yes, very beautiful - on my computer screen. Seriously, I am not generally frightened by snakes as long as I can identify them and know how far away I should stay. You are much better at that than am I!

As always, your images are fantastic.

Clear View Tree said...

WOW the quality of the photos are fantastic! Thats very cool, I doubt I would've been able to see past its camouflage. It blends in quite well.
Ready to kill!

-Oscar Valencia
Tree Service Bronx

Montanagirl said...

I'm not a fan of snakes, but I have to admit he's got beautiful coloring.

Mary Ann Gieszelmann said...

What a beautiful creature! His colors, his camouflage markings, are a wonder to behold. I do not find snakes repulsive at all. It's just a matter of looking at who they are, how they operate, and their place in the world of nature.

Hilary said...

I'm so not a snake person but you sure did get some wonderful photos of this one. I'm glad for you that you were able to see one. :)

Thanks so much for your visit to my blog.

Roy said...

Definitely a gorgeous snake. Good eye!

holdingmoments said...

What a beauty he is Kelly.
I love those markings.

Mary said...

Wow...great photos!

Bob Bushell said...

Nice colouring and beautiful photos.

Kat Griffin said...

great photos as always !
-KAT-

Tammie Lee said...

so intricately beautiful. i love the design and each little diamond giving way to movement.

Caitlin said...

What a beauty- and the dappled light on him is lovely!

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! He is a beauty, and I'm so happy I was finally able to see one in the wild. What a wonderful surprise.