Wed 30 May 2007
I ran into a snake near the foot of my driveway last Thursday. Or, to be more precise, I managed to avoid running over it.
A Pacific gopher snake three to four feet long was warming itself on sunny patch of Campolindo Drive near the ends of Skip and Renée Shannon’s driveway, Jay Haas and Didi Thompson’s driveway, and my driveway.
Two other neighbors, George and Earlene Grimm, walked up when they saw me taking the snake’s picture, and Earlene told me she and George have counted as many as 15 gopher snakes in their yard.
Another neighbor, George Stamoulis, later told me he had picked up a gopher snake a few days earlier and found its scales to be pleasantly smooth as it wiggled around in his hands before he set it back down.
Gopher snakes are found coast to coast from southern Canada to the central Mexican state of Sinaloa. They are non-venomous although they don’t want you to know this.
“When disturbed, the gopher snake will rise to a striking position, flatten its head into a triangular shape, hiss loudly and shake its tail at the intruder,” the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum reports. “These defensive behaviors, along with its body markings, frequently cause the gopher snake to be mistaken for a rattlesnake.”
However, the museum adds, “the tapered tail, the absence of a rattle, the lack of a facial pit, and the round pupils all distinguish the gopher snake from the rattlesnake.”
The gopher snake is a constrictor, and it plays an important role in keeping my hill’s rodent population under control. However, it can also climb trees, and it will eat birds and eggs when the opportunity arises.
With all the birds, people, and snakes on my hill, this is sometimes a busy neighborhood. My stepdaughter Anika Zappa, who just visited me for a week, spotted a female raccoon on my firewood box looking in the dining-room window one evening and shot this photo.
No sooner had Anika departed than former Point Reyes Light reporter Janine Warner and her husband Dave LaFontaine showed up for a four-day stay. They had been here only a couple of days when Janine looked out my kitchen window and saw a blacktail doe looking back at her.
Like the raccoon, the deer was unfazed at being able to see humans just inside the window. However, were I to open an outside door, the wildlife would quickly back off.
Apparently, the wildlife on my hill have come to consider my cabin a cage. As long as my doors to the outdoors are closed, they presume I’m safely locked inside, leaving them free to wander wherever they please. When my cage door opens, however, they act as if we on the inside may be on the verge of escaping.