Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bullsnake: The Big Stick in the Road

After our week-long road trip, we returned home to an empty refrigerator.  It was time for a grocery run to the big city:  Eau Claire. 

If we stick to the main highway (State Road 84),  it's about an hour drive.  But ever since we discovered Rustic Road #107 through Meridean, the ride can take a couple of hours or more, especially during migration.  We just never know what we're going to see.

We left Nelson around 11am.  We didn't see much on the ride east through the riparian woods and prairies along the Chippewa River.  It was hot and the birds were taking their mid-day siesta.

It's been a relatively rain-less summer and the water levels in the ponds and creeks along the Chippewa are way down. It was a very dusty drive.  The corn is stunted and dry.  Leaves are withered and yellow.

We didn't see much on the ride back to Nelson - until around 6pm, when I spotted a big stick in the road ahead near a stretch of prairie grasses.   A shovel or limb must have fallen out of a pickup.

Then it moved!   It's a SNAKE!  A big one.

I pulled the car to the side of the road, grabbed my little SONY Cyber-shot and ran up to it.

I'm not a snake "person," but I know enough to check out the eyes first.  This one had round eyes.  Non-venomous.  Safe. 

But I didn't have to fight the urge to grab it for a closer look.  Unless someone else is holding it and passes it over to me, I'm a very reluctant snake handler.

I blame my wicked brother, Martin.  Back when we were kids playing in the garden, he tossed a garter snake at me.  I caught it.  It bit me, then for good measure, it defecated on me. 

To this day, even though I "know" better, I don't go out of my way to pick up a snake.  I've just never had a mentor and the motivation to get over it.

I will, however, pick up a bat - even though I've been bitten many times.  (Please don't pick up a bat unless you have training and the pre-exposure shots).  The more you know about a critter, the less you fear it.   Right?

Back to the snake, about which I don't know much.

Looks like a bullsnake.  As I got close enough to get a photo, it immediately did what most snakes do when confronted by a human:  it slithered off... back into the prairie.

When I got home, I "googled" bull snake, and discovered that it's a species of interest to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  They have a page for reporting bullsnake sightings.  I did my duty and reported it. 

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