A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident 

This is the first snake I have featured. Those I have seen in my part of the forest are too small and fast. By the time I see one, it is gone, under a log or into one of our fieldstone walls. This guy was taking his time, crossing the hiking path last week when we were visiting central Maryland. I wanted to walk away as fast as possible. My wife followed it and snapped this photograph. She is brave. 

I escort insects outdoors. I apologize to toads when my weed whacking approaches. I move mouse nests gently from grills and leave spider webs alone until abandoned. I’m not overly afraid of bears, at least so far. If I see a snake of any size I walk in the opposite direction immediately. 

As with many varieties of fear, my response is fueled by ignorance. I don’t know which came first. I encountered no snakes where I grew up in northwestern Ohio. I didn’t see many until I moved to coastal North Carolina. I once went fishing on the aptly named Cape Fear River. Several very large snakes fell into our boat from the tree branches above. The local fellow I was with just pitched them overboard, as though they were but a mild annoyance. I did not fish with him again. 

My usual curiosity does not extend to snakes. I just don’t want to be around them. My wife’s web search concluded this is likely a rat snake, of no danger to humans. She found this out after running toward him to get a photograph. 

Some of the little snakes I see around here are probably rat snakes, too. They grow larger in warmer climates, and are therefore benefitting from climate change. This one was probably five feet long. They grow to more then eight feet and are constrictors, feeding mostly on rodents and birds. They are found almost everywhere in Pennsylvania. 

Thanks to my wife’s intrepid photographing my snake ignorance is slightly less and therefore my snake fear, too. It’s a start.

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