Monday, July 18, 2011

Prairies and Snakes

Certainly one thing I share with other plein air painters is the occasional encounter with snakes.  One day when I was painting along a canal a weed whacker came up the waterway and as it was chopping the invasive water plants, it spewed them into the air along with chopped bits of snakes which landed a bit too close to me for my comfort. Some of them were still wiggling as they rained down and landed!  As I stood and watched I saw hundreds of delighted birds appear seemingly out of nowhere to swoop down and treat themselves to an unexpected feast.  On another occasion at Paynes Prairie State Park, I happened to look over the bridge and saw a tangle of snakes (see photo).  There were people on the bridge exclaiming "look at the moccasins!" and someone was actually throwing little things at them. When I checked with the park ranger, I was told that they were green water snakes mating, not moccasins.  I read on switcheroozoo that "The Florida green water snake is a common, harmless snake that can be found in weedy marshes and grasses around ponds and along canals, sometimes basking in the vegetation. If threatened or harassed, the green water snake may bite and emit an unpleasant smell. These snakes are active primarily in the daytime, but can also be found feeding on minnows or small fish in the early evenings. Florida green water snakes are excellent swimmers and can dive from logs or tree limbs into the water. They bear their young alive and can have litters as large as 100!"  In researching them further I found an article from the Florida Scientist stating that "U.S. Highway 441 at Paynes Prairie appears to have one of the highest levels of snake road mortality ever reported" and that this same snake was one of the most commonly killed.  Aside from painting, I am using the Six Artists Six Prairies project to learn as much as I can about our prairies and their inhabitants and to share interesting tidbits I find.

Mary Jane Volkmann

1 comment:

  1. Water snakes are often over looked species for coolness on this animal planet. I have been a member of several natures preserving clubs and it is creatures such as these that are worth the battle to protect wetlands and water habitats. We should try to protect them since the day they were born, water snake don’t hurt just know them better.

    Brown Water snake