Eastern Ribbon Snake

I had just taken my laundry out of the dryer and turned toward the door with my laundry basket when I spotted something tiny and slender on the floor just inside the door.  Was that a snake?!  It wasn’t moving – was it dead?  Could I have somehow stepped on it without realizing when I walked into the room?

No, happily the snake was alive and well, and was perfectly docile when I set down my laundry and picked it up instead.  (To clarify, the door of our laundry room opens to the outside.  I assume it crawled through the crack under the door.)  It was so tiny that when it curled up it fit in the palm of my hand.  Utterly charming.  I’m glad it happened to wander inside while I was the one doing my laundry, rather someone with a less charitable attitude toward snakes, because something this small could easily be killed by one determined stomp.  Leaving my laundry basket on the floor to come back for later, I carried the little creature up to my room and grabbed my camera.

Look how teeny!  After consulting this awesome book, I decided it was a Ribbon Snake, Thamnophis sauritus.  These are common here, but I’d never seen one before and I still think it’s cool.  In the six months I spent doing environmental education in Ohio, I saw a total of three snake species – Eastern Garter Snake, Black Rat Snake, and Northern Water Snake.  In the month and a half I’ve been in Georgia I’ve already seen five (this, Rough Green Snake, Banded Water Snake, Black Racer, and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake), and I’ve barely scratched the surface.  I love it.

According to Wikipedia, Ribbon Snakes mate in April or May and have a three-month gestation period, with the young being born in late spring or summer.  That puts this guy at roughly a month old.  Wikipedia also says that just like garter snakes (which are in the same genus), these guys rarely bite but can produce a disgusting musky smell when they feel threatened.  Having once briefly held a wild Eastern Garter Snake, I can confirm that it made my hands smell horrible.  However, after handling this little critter, I could only pick up the faintest possible trace of odor on my fingertips.  Did it not feel threatened by me?  I have to think that any small snake that doesn’t feel threatened by being picked up by a human is not in its right mind.  Perhaps when they’re this young their musk glands just haven’t fully developed yet.

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