A Snake in the Hand Worth 2 in the Bush

A very young Corn Snake--a kind of rat snake

Fortunately, only one chop short of disaster, I spotted this new-born corn snake in time, and it remained unscathed by the hoe as I cleaned up garden weeds the other day.

I had seen a much larger adult behind the shed a week earlier–probably the same one I photographed hanging deceptively rope-like among the loops of cord and wire in the same shed last summer.

I brought the young corn snake inside to show a friend, here working on some computer projects, and he held the docile snake in his hands for this photograph.

Corn snakes (a species in the genus Elaphe, a rat snake) make good pets. They are docile as a rule, and quite attractive. Take a look at the variety of color patterns corn snakes exhibit.

At first glance, they might appear to the snakeophobe as a copperhead. Please look twice before chopping one of these snakes in two with a shovel or bashing it in with a rock to protect your children or animals.

These are beneficial around house or garden or barn, as they eat rodents (but also some birds and other small reptiles or amphibians) and kill by constriction. If they strike and bite, they are non-poisonous, and will cause less harm than a house cat scratching you or getting stuck by a blackberry or Smilax vine.

Note on the google images page the general elongated head, typical of rat snakes, versus the broader head and thicker body of a copperhead. If you can get the snake to roll over (you’ll likely have to be holding it) you’ll see the speckled belly pattern that might give these snakes their common name (looks like variegated corn) and their species name, guttata, which means speckled.

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fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

4 thoughts on “A Snake in the Hand Worth 2 in the Bush”

  1. Aw, cute! I love corn snakes – I had one as a pet for many years, along with a beautiful Chinese Twin-Spotted Rat Snake (Elaphe bimaculata)

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