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Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Ratsnake’

Humans shed skin cells all of the time—according to one source, in one year, each of us sheds more than 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of dead skin. Snakes have an entirely different shedding process. Several times a year they grow a complete new layer of skin underneath the old layer. During shedding, snakes secrete a fluid to help separate the old skin from the new, and this fluid runs under their specialized eye caps, resulting in the opaque or blue quality of the eye.

Last Friday I encountered one of these blue-eyed snakes while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Snakes are vulnerable during this stage when their vision is impaired and I was a little surprised to see this snake was in a fairly open area. I think this may be an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis), but did not examine the snake at length for fear of disturbing it.

Moving as stealthily as I could, I leaned in with my macro lens to capture this image. If you look carefully into the eye (or double-click on the image to enlarge it) you will see that I managed to capture a “selfie” reflection.

As an interesting coincidence, my most viewed posting of 2020 has been a May 2016 posting that also featured a snake with a blue eye. That posting, entitled Blue-eyed garter snake, has had 597 views so far this year. If you are not totally creeped out by today’s photo, you might want to check out the 2016 posting, which has some full body shots as well as a close-up shot of the snake’s head.

Eastern Ratsnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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So many of the creatures that I encounter blend in so well with their environments, that I detect them only when they move. That was the case with this Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) last week that I spotted while I was exploring in Prince William County, Virginia.

I was a bit startled when the leaves started to rustle almost directly beneath my feet and my eyes detected the form of a large black snake slowly slithering away from me. The snake apparently had been sunning itself before I inadvertently disturbed it.

After the snake had moved some distance up the side of a small hill covered with fallen leaves and vegetation, it paused and turned to the side, allowing me to capture the first shot below. As those of you who know me might suspect, I too had been making my way up the hill parallel to the snake, waiting for such an opportunity to arise to get a shot of the snake’s head, which explains why I was able to take the shot from relatively close range.

Eastern Ratsnake

Eastern Ratsnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Our recent warm weather has caused all kinds of creatures to reappear, like this Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) that I spotted on Wednesday while hiking in Prince William Forest Park. I kept my distance and relied on a telephoto lens to zoom closer even though I knew that this snake was not poisonous. I am not sure how long the snake was, but as you can see in the second photo it looked to be quite long. According to the Virginia Herpetological Society website, the Eastern Ratsnake is the only snake in Virginia that can grow to be more than six feet (183 cm) in length.

UPDATE: A snake expert weighed in on my Facebook posting about this snake and noted that, “This is a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor). It’s harder to tell with the mud, but the dorsal scales are unkeeled, the skull shape too round, scale shape more rhombus-like, and eyes too big.” This just reinforces the notion that the more that I learn, the more I realize how little I know—that is why it is great to have experts around to help us identify what we see and photograph. The average size of a Northern Black Racer is “only” 36-60 inches (90-152 cm).

 

Eastern Ratsnake

Eastern Ratsnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday was sunny, but not particularly warm—about 48 degrees F (9 degrees C)—so I was shocked when I encountered a snake. My eyes were pointed upwards as I scanned the trees for birds, but a slight movement just in front of my feet caught my attention and when I looked downward, I saw the sinuous curves of a snake (as shown in the second image below).

The snake, which I think may be an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis), moved to the side of the path and into the brush. It stopped moving long enough, however, for me to capture the close-up image image below. I know that some folks will find the image to be creepy or even frightening, but I like the way that it shows some of the wonderful details of the snake’s markings and its body.

Although it may look like I was really close to the snake, I was actually a good distance away and was shooting with a long telephoto lens.

Eastern Ratsnake

 

Eastern Ratsnake

Eastern Ratsnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spent much of my time Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge scanning the trees for birds. On one of the rare moments when I was looking down, I ended up looking into the eyes of what appears to be a Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon).

Although it may look like I was dangerously close to this snake, I took these shots with my Tamron 150-600mm lens, which has a minimum focusing distance of almost 9 feet (274 cm). Northern Watersnakes are not poisonous, but I have been told that their bites can be very painful and that the snakes inject an anti-coagulant when they bite, so wounds tend to bleed profusely.

I particularly like the way that I was able to capture some of the details of the snake, including its scales and its head. If you look closely, you can even see a miniature landscape in the eyes of the snake.

UPDATE: One of the viewers on my Facebook page commented that this looks more like an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) than a Northern Watersnake. I am hoping to get some clarification on the species of this snake and would welcome the views of any readers with expertise in this area.

Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Creepy or cool? This snake and I stared at each other for a while on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park before it decided that it had had enough and silently slithered away. One of my Facebook friends praised me for winning a staring contest with a snake, but I think that it may have simply gotten bored or had satisfied its curiosity.

I am not sure of the species, but think that it may be an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis).

Eastern Ratsnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am seeing more and more wildlife as we move deeper into spring and even encountered a couple of snakes this past Monday as I was walking along some of the informal trails at my local marshland park. When I say “encountered,” I mean that I almost unwittingly stepped on them and was shocked when they made sudden movements.

The smaller of the two was a cute little Eastern Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) a pretty common species in out area. The second, much larger snake is probably an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis), formerly known as the Black Ratsnake.

According to the Virginia Herpetological Society, the Eastern Ratsnake is the only snake in Virginia that can grow to a length of more than six feet (1.8 meters).  This snake was not quite that long, but it was pretty big and rather fierce looking. Although I occasionally have photographed snakes with a macro lens, I was more than content to get this shot with my telephoto zoom lens extended to it maximum 600mm focal length.

Eastern Garter SnakeEastern Ratsnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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