Monday, August 9, 2010

Green Snake...

Volunteering at Shawnee State Park in Southeastern Ohio
Green Snake is another favorite at the nature center. Overtly friendly and super active, he loved to climb up arms and fingers like he would a tree with tiny branches. Green Snake was graceful and smooth, and definitely the most "cartoonish" in his movements of all the snakes at the nature center. He could glide like butter across a hot pan as he expertly wound himself around fingers, hair, camera straps, and anything else in his way. He would stop and look at you now and then, hovering midair before smoothly and suddenly dipping down to wrap himself around something new.

Green Snake hovers in the air while his tail entwines around this small boy's fingers.

...again, Green Snake seems to defy gravity.

Kids liked the name "Green Snake," but because he was a Green Snake kids would often try to to come up with something unique. Matty and I heard lots of attempts at new names...Mr. Green Jeans, String Bean, Slinky, Snots (gross, I know, but after all, he was green...and little boys were the ones coming up with the ideas...), throughout the entire week nothing new seemed to stick, so Green Snake is still Green Snake.

Green Snakes are native to Ohio, although they are a bit rare. I'd love to stumble across one, and my chances might be going up. I just read an article in the Dayton Daily News that reports 11 Smooth Green Snakes were found on the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Big news considering it's the first time the snakes have been found in our area since 1871! Click here for a a link to the article.

I think Jenny said Green Snake was a Rough Green Snake. They are found in the southern-most parts of Ohio. There's no denying his beauty. Sleek and streamlined, his neon green skin was almost surreal. He was fun to watch and could eat crickets like nobody's business. Within seconds of popping a few in his cage, he would seek out and devour them.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Who can resist an Oreo? (or...oh no, another snake post...)

Volunteering at Shawnee State Park in Southeastern Ohio
...I know, I know...another snake, but look at him! He's Oreo, a California Kingsnake, and he's beautiful. I think Oreo was requested more than any other snake at the nature center. All the kids loved him and wanted to hold him (and the parents too, even moms...). With California in his name, it's obvious Oreo is not native to Ohio, but you can find Black Kingsnakes in Ohio. If you go back to the first Shawnee post I did, you'll find photos of Mr. King, a native Black Kingsnake. Although super friendly and gentle with humans, we had to keep the kingsnakes away from the other snakes because kingsnakes love to eat other snakes, and no snake seemed to be too big for dinner. I'll have to check with Jenny, but I think she said poor Pumpkin (the Corn Snake) had his whole head swallowed by Mr. King. Thank goodness someone was there to pull Pumpkin's head out! Kingsnakes will even eat venomous snakes. Apparently, Kingsnakes are immune to venom from Ohio's three native poisonous snakes (Timber Rattler, Northern Copperhead, and Eastern Massasauga).

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
It's easy to see how Oreo got his name...

...although he could have been named after a cookie simply because he's so sweet!

...the kingsnake's scales are beautiful. I learned in an art history course I took eons ago that early artists mimicked snake scales and patterns in their art and the designs may have lead to the development of mosaics. I can certainly see the connection here!

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
Matty shows a small child how to hold a snake using open hands.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center

Matty learned an open-handed technique was a great way to get hesitant kids accustomed to the larger snakes. The kids were less fearful with open hands and soon grew to love the snakes. If you have children who love snakes (or are afraid of them), go to Shawnee and visit with Jenny at the nature center. Kids really respond to her. I saw so many timid children overcome their fears and learn to appreciate another part of nature after visiting with Jenny and all the critters at the nature center.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center

...Oreo hangs down from Matty's neck as he talks to one of the visitors.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
...Oreo rests around Matty's neck, peeping out from behind.

...see you later, Oreo! We miss you...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Piglet, the Western Hog-nosed Snake

Volunteering at Shawnee State Park in Southeastern Ohio
I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I had never heard of an Eastern or Western Hog-nosed Snake before I came nose to snout with one at Jenny's Nature Center, and if I'm telling the truth, I should also mention that when I first picked little Piglet up, I was a tiny bit...unnerved. That little up-turned snout looked dangerous to me, but within seconds of holding him, I was hooked. He was so gentle and cute...and sweet! After all, how could anything named "Piglet" be scary?

How can I have lived almost 50 years in Ohio and never have heard of or seen this beautiful snake? I knew so little about our native snakes before volunteering at Shawnee State Park. The knowledge I gained was invaluable. Thanks, Jenny!!

Piglet was playing in the rain with Matty when I took these shots. His little Piglet snout looked especially cute sprinkled with raindrops, but it has a function too. He uses it to dig in sandy soils, sweeping his head back and forth.

...beautiful markings, but the pattern scared some of the parents who thought he might be an Eastern Massasauga (poisonous). A lot of people had never heard of a hognose, but soon overcame their fear when they saw how docile and harmless Piglet was.

...the longer you look at this guy the cuter he becomes. It's amazing what a week with these critters can do for you.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
Piglet rests in Matty's hand.

...all the kids who came into the Nature Center ended up falling for Piglet! Here a little boy gently holds Piglet who gives us a nice profile shot!

Hog-nosed Snakes actually have fangs (or large teeth) in the rear of their mouths, and their saliva is slightly toxic to their prey but harmless to humans. Piglet was so friendly, we didn't get to see the act a hognose puts on when he feels threatened. A hognose will rear up, flatten its head, inflate its body and hiss...and if that doesn't scare his enemy away, he might just flop over and play dead like an opossum. Either way, it would be quite a sight to see...

...for a post on a native Eastern Hognose Snake and his "playing dead" antics, click here.