Fear of snakes is instinctive. It just is. I imagine that most of those who have overcome it have done so through repeated exposure, knowledge gained over time. It's not enough to know that an animal is harmless; you have to feel it. And if you don't, you'll still be scared by something as innocuous as a 5-inch long ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus) that you might find swimming in your backyard pool.I found that out one night this summer when Daniel was in the pool and I spotted one a few yards away from him. I didn't want Daniel to scare it (or be scared by it), so I casually slipped back inside the house and ran to get the camera. The snake was a tiny little fellow and quite content to hang out in the corner of the pool. Unfortunately, that corner was a bit close to where the lad was playing on the steps of the shallow end. And despite my attempts to keep the snake out of Danny's sight, that proved impossible. (Gee, for some reason my two-year-old son took an interest in whatever it was I was pointing my camera at in the pool. Go figure!). When he noticed the snake, Daniel got very excited—scared, even—and left the pool; wouldn't get back in until I'd removed the little dude.
the most frequently found snake in Florida swimming pools—they crawl in to get a drink and then cannot climb out because they are too small to reach the lip of the pool.I'm sure the herpetologists at the FLMNH have no problem handling snakes, even venomous ones. They're trained to do so, and any fear they might once have felt has vanished with the confidence in their own abilities to handle these critters. However, their advice for the average homeowner understandably takes the layperson's squeamishness into account:
If you find one in your pool, lift it out with the leaf skimmer or a dipnet and turn it loose in the shrubs where it can get back to eating things you do not want in your garden.And I can vouch for the efficacy of their advice. After my two failed attempts to grab this little guy by hand (and he was barely longer than my hand's width), he retreated to the middle of the pool, where I had to resort to the skimmer to scoop him out and get him to safety. Why did my first two attempts fail? Because the little guy wriggled out of my grasp, and I am no snake wrangler, no herpetologist with long experience in how to corral these critters. I'm just an amateur naturalist, interested in, but sometimes a bit scared of, nature. (I don't have the ophidiophobia of an Indiana Jones, but they do creep me out, just a bit.) Greene writes
Humans have always regarded snakes with a mixture of inquisitiveness and fear, of awe and revulsion, but whether these conflicting tendencies reflect genetically based predispositions or cultural traditions has long been controversial. In laboratory experiments and field observations, primate responses to snakes range from instant terror through curiosity and mobbing to immediate consumption; that some naive nonhuman primates react negatively to snakes suggests an inborn response with obvious survival value.Now, mind you, just because a snake is small doesn't mean it's harmless. Pygmy rattlesnakes aren't a whole lot bigger than ring-necked snakes, but their venom is quite potent. You won't ever confuse them, because they look nothing alike, but it's always best to treat an unknown snake with caution. Cheers! References Gibbons, W. and M. Dorcas. 2005. Snakes of the Southeast. Athens: U of Georgia P. Greene, H.W. 1997. Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature. Berkeley: U of California P. Krysko, K.L., K.M. Enge, P.E. Moler. 2011. Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Florida. Final Report, Project Agreement 08013, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, FL. Vigil, S. "Species Profile: Ringneck Snake." Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. http://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/diapun.htm
Racers probably have a more diverse diet than any other North American snake. The wide variety of prey items includes small rodents, lizards, other snakes (including smaller racers), birds, frogs, insects, and even small turtles.These snakes are visual hunters, often holding their head up high like a periscope to get a good view of their intended prey. Upon sighting a prey item, they chase it down, seize it, and swallow it whole. (No snake is capable of tearing up a meal into bite-sized chunks; if the animal is larger than the snake's jaws, no problem—they just unhinge their jaw until their gape can accommodate it!) One personal bonus for me on sighting this species was that it got me to look once again at the description of this species in Gibbons & Dorcas, and there on the first page was the picture of my mystery baby snake from last year! While that individual may not be the one I saw today, it's not impossible by any stretch of the imagination! Here's that baby snake again:
The Racer (Coluber constrictor) illustrates the responses of many slender, unicolored, fast-moving species of snakes. A startled adult Racer reacts by violent undulatory movement that quickly changes to rapid, graceful locomotion for thirty meters or more. If startled at very close range, a Racer sometimes coils with its head hidden and writhes, smearing scent gland secretions over its body. Alternatively, the snake assumes an S-coil, vibrates its tail, and strikes repeatedly. If seized, a Racer continues to bite and discharge its cloacal contents, while twisting its entire body so strongly that sometimes the tail is broken off. Juvenile Racers have a boldly spotted color pattern and probably rely more heavily on camouflage for escape from predators than do adults.I have yet to net a butterfly or wasp, and I have yet to do more than admire the snakes and lizards I've photographed. And I have to say, they are often worthy of admiration:
- "typical" body shape (on the range slender—typical—stout)
- "medium" head size (on the range "no neck"—medium—broad headed)
- blotched markings
- round pupils (therefore not a pit viper)
I can probably recall every individual basal snake among thousands of other serpents I've seen in the field.This group's popularity has of course led to some problems; here in the Everglades we have a potentially explosive population of Burmese Pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) to deal with. The advanced snakes, the Colubridae, make up about 80% of the world's snakes, so I'm sure there's going to be some taxonomic shuffling soon; no grouping of nearly 2000 species is safe from splitting. References Ashton, R. E. (1988). Handbook of reptiles and amphibians of Florida, part 1: the snakes. 2nd ed. Miami: Windward. Gibbons, W. (2005). Snakes of the southeast. Athens: U of Georgia P. Greene, H.W. (2000). Snakes: the evolution of mystery in nature. Berkeley: U of California P.
To recognize Save the Frogs Day, the Center for Biological Diversity is teaming up with other environmental organizations to call on the EPA to ban the toxic pesticide atrazine. Atrazine is a widely used weed killer that chemically castrates male frogs at extremely low concentrations and is linked to significant human and wildlife health concerns, including endocrine disruption, birth defects, fertility problems and certain cancers. Atrazine is the most common contaminant of groundwater, surface water and drinking water nationwide. It's time to ban atrazine to protect imperiled frogs and other wildlife. There's no reason to continue use of this poisonous contaminant given the mounting evidence of harm to humans and endangered species. Please take action -- send a letter to the EPA today. ****************************************** Click here to find out more and take action: http://action.biologicaldiversity.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6526So take a minute and help our web-footed friends, won't you? References Ashton, R. & Ashton, P. (1988). Handbook of reptiles and amphibians of Florida. Part three: The amphibians. Miami: Windward. Dorcas, M. & Gibbons, W. (2008). Frogs and toads of the southeast. Athens: U of Georgia. Elliot, L., Gerhardt, C., & Davidson, C. (2009). Frogs and toads of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Souder, W. (2000). A plague of frogs: unraveling an environmental mystery. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota.
Osteopilus septentrionalis is usually introduced through horticultural shipments and plantings (especially palm trees) (Meshaka, 1996a, b, 2001; Jackson in Meshaka, 1996a; Livo et al., 1998; Mitchell, 1999; Owen et al., 2006; Enge et al. 2008), building materials (Meshaka, 1996b; Dodd and Griffey, 2002; Owen et al., 2005, 2006), and motorized vehicles (Meshaka, 1996a; Enge et al. 2008). In addition to anthropogenic dispersal, it also is possible that they can disperse throughout much of the Caribbean by rafting on floating vegetation (Meshaka, 2001). Several authors have suggested that indigenous Cuban treefrogs may have existed on Key West and the lower Florida Keys since pre-Colombian times (Lazell, 1989; Meshaka, 2001). [All references are at the aforelinked fact sheet]However they first got here, they certainly feel at home now. (By the way, most experts classify this frog, despite its cubacentric name, as a West Indian species, because it is widely distributed in the islands. It doesn't have to worry about the wet foot/dry foot policy...) When I came home from work yesterday, M and little e greeted me with the news that one of these alien invaders could be seen at our garden hose, and sure enough, this little guy seemed quite at home there: Dorcas & Gibbons (2008) describe it thusly:
The advertisement call sounds like a rasping version of a cross between an eastern spadefoot toad's incessant qwaah and a southern leopard frog's "rubbed balloon" croak.It's easy to tell adults of this species from just about any other treefrog on account of their size: they're almost twice as large as our native species, up to 6 inches in the largest females. It's hard to tell size from a photograph, and if you don't have a native treefrog handy to compare, or you're looking at a small individual, you need to focus on other identifying characteristics. Elliott, Gerhardt, & Davidson (2009) say that you can distinguish smaller individuals from other Florida treefrogs "by its lack of stripes and other markings running from the front of the eye to the rear and sides of the body" (120). They also note that "individuals can change color rapidly, usually from some shade of brown or tan to pale green (or vice versa), and spots may appear or disappear" (120). Dorcas & Gibbons, is by the size of the toepad: it's "disproportionately larger than those of any other southeastern frog" (103): Ashton & Ashton (1988), "There is a fold of skin from the eye over the tympanum and ending on the shoulder" (177). You can see it pretty clearly in this detail: the still unidentified critters I saw at Lake Ida ten days ago. (This could be a sign of how successful they are as a competitor; they don't fear much, perhaps because they don't have much to fear?) instructions from UF/IFAS on how to euthanize a frog:
To euthanize a Cuban Treefrog, hold the frog firmly in your hand and apply a 1 inch bead of benzocaine ointment along the back of the frog. Benzocaine ointment is a topical anesthetic (a numbing agent) used to treat skin pain (e.g., from sunburn) and itching as well as toothaches and sore throats. There are a variety of name brand and generic versions that are available over-the-counter in a tube or spray. If you are able to, using a gloved finger spread the ointment out on the frog's back. Alternatively, you could use a benzocaine spray. Once the ointment or spray is applied, place the frog in a plastic grocery bag or a sealable sandwich bag for 15-20 minutes so that the benzocaine has a chance to render the frog unconscious (be sure to seal the bag or tie it closed). After the bezocaine has anesthetized the frog, place the bag in a freezer overnight to ensure that the frog is dead and then throw it out in your trash. If you are unable to apply benzocaine to the frog, you can simply put it in a plastic bag, seal or tie the bag shut, then place it in the freezer overnight--dispose of the bag and the frog in the trash the next day. Do not throw a bagged frog into the trash without euthanizing it first. Remember, Cuban Treefrogs have a noxious skin secretion so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after you handle the frog, even if you wear gloves or use a plastic bag. Freezing is a humane way to kill amphibians because their bodies go into a state of torpor (metabolism slows way down) -- just as they do in cold weather outside. If the cold weather is short in duration, the frogs will come out of their torpor state. However, after an extended time in freezing temperatures, the frogs die. A good test to determine if a frog is a Cuban treefrog is to grasp the frog firmly, but gently, and try to move the skin around on the top of the frog's head with your fingertip. The skin on the head of a Cuban treefrog is fused to the top of the skull and won't move. Be sure to wash your hands after handling any frog or toad. They all secrete a slimy film to protect their skin, but the secretions of some species, like the Cuban treefrog, can irritate the skin and eyes of some people.