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We Had Temporary Custody of a Baby Rat Snake

September 17, 2008

John brought it home, in the wee hours of the morning, Wednesday. It was in his office, and he saved it from being unjustly executed by a co-worker who thought it was a copperhead. My hubby insisted it was a baby rat snake, and an internet search proved him right. Its markings are similar to those of a young copperhead. This provided fodder for family discussion of defenses and mimicry.

The head of a copperhead would be markedly different, as copperheads are vipers (distinguished by their head shape). Rat snakes are constrictors. The kids observed — even before their dad told them rat snakes are constrictors — that “Joey,” as James called him seemed to be trying to wrap himself around a cricket. Good practice for conquering larger prey, like mice.

James and I experimented with an on-line field guide (e-nature), then we looked it up in a print field guide. We confirmed the John’s identification: it’s a baby rat snake.

Inspired by Tammy, I decided this was a good time for each of us to start a new nature journal. Our previous attempts at nature journaling, over the years, have never stuck. But hope springs eternal.

Trisha’s Painting

My Drawing

Sarah’s Drawing

James’s Drawing

We were all thrilled to have temporary custody of this beautiful critter. The kids wanted to keep it as a pet. I felt it should be released in the wild (or even in our garage, as indoor locations are frequently a habitat for rat snakes). “Joey” resolved the issue by finding a way to escape from its case; we haven’t seen it since. We have plenty of insects in the house, and I suspect its just fine.

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