You might think that at this time of year that all snakes are safely tucked away for the winter, not so. Although I haven’t personally seen any snakes slithering across the landscape here at the Museum (I did see one on New Year’s Day along the Eno River), our resident Red-shouldered Hawk has seen them, at least three that I know of, probably more.
While talking with the Explore the Wild Team of Animal Keepers and Volunteer here at the Museum, Kimberly, Marilyn, and Ashlyn respectively, Kimberly spotted a hawk in a tree some fifty yards or so from where we were standing. The hawk looked to be eating something. I had to get a closer look.
I walked over to where I could get a better view of the bird, took out my camera and started clicking away. It looked to me, through the camera viewfinder, that the hawk was eating a frog. I’d seen a pickerel frog earlier in the day in the pool in front of the Black Bear Enclosure, so maybe it was a Pickerel Frog that the hawk was tearing at with its sharp, hooked bill.
It wasn’t until a few minutes later after the hawk had departed and I was reviewing the images on the camera that I realize that it was a snake being torn apart by the hawk, a small garter snake.
If you remember from a recent post, there had been at least two other snakes caught by what I assume is this same hawk. This capture makes three.
It seems that garter snakes have been active all winter, at least so far. When they should be brumating these snakes have been crawling around the landscape.
Yesterday was a particularly mild winter day in the mid-sixties. I saw two species of butterfly, many ground beetles, spiders, and of course at least one Pickerel Frog, so there were probably many other prey items around for the snakes to eat, if indeed they could move fast enough for them to catch anything.
Remember, the colder it is, the slower these cold blooded animals move. And although the mid-sixties is pretty warm for the middle of February I’ll bet that it wasn’t that warm on the moist floor of the forest. Everything slows down in a reptile’s body in winter. A slow metabolism means that they probably don’t need to eat, so the matter of finding prey may not be an issue for them.
I can’t wait to see what turns up tomorrow!