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A story of
two garter snakes 

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A story of two garter snakes by Stan Gielewski

Last weekend I attended a reptile show at the Richmond Nature Park. The building where the exhibits were held was located at the entrance to the park, which is a nice swampy area with lots of blueberry bushes, all kinds of shrubs, moss and some trees. After the show, my friend Terry and I decided to explore the woods. We followed one of the trails which took us on a sightseeing tour through some small ponds. The shredded bark trail was very soft and cushion-like. It was bouncing under the weight of our steps and you could easily feel the bog underneath - such a nice feeling after walking everyday on the concrete pavements of our cities. So we walked and talked, about nature and our projects. At one point, as I was looking at the terrain and visualizing my own future nature park, I noticed two slender shapes disappearing head to head into the bushes. Snakes ! I fell on my knees and doved into the shrubs hoping to catch the two wanderers. Yes ! I got hold of both of them - one in each hand.

'Terry ! Terry ! I need some help !'
'What ? Where ?'
'Snakes ! Two small snakes !'
'Where ? I can't see them !'
'Here ! Here ! In the bushes ! I need some help to untangle them !'
'Where ?! I can't see them !'
'Right here ! We just have to pull them out gently !..'
'I see... I got one, are you ok ?'
'Yes, slowly.. slowly.. ok... done !'
'Nice !'
'Wow ! They are really good looking !'
'Yes. What a treat ! After looking at all those reptiles at the show now these two guys saying 'hello' right here in the backyard !'

So we finally picked them up and had a chance to take a closer look. They were beautiful ! One of them was blueish in color and the other one more green with a distinctive orange stripe along the body. They were exactly of the same size and still 'just kids'. It was incredible ! Finding those two traveling 'hand in hand' like this in the wild was really special and not a coincidence. They hatched just a few months ago and were way too young to breed. They were either siblings hanging out together from the start since they left the eggs, or they hooked up later, became friends and decided to keep each other company. Who says snakes are not social !

After getting acquainted with the two nice fellows we let them go in the same spot where we found them. They followed each other and went on to continue their explorations. What a magical experience this was !

Our meeting leaves me wondering... Walking around the swamp with Terry was it actually us who found them, or perhabs the two garter snakes are now telling their friends a familiar now story... It goes like this: last weekend we were roaming at the Richmond Nature Park where those creatures which call themselves people had a reptile show. We spotted two of them and decided to take a closer look...

Here is one of the garter snakes on the ground soon after their release - the other one already managed to escape the camera. When on the ground they are fast !:

Here is me with the two little fellows:

This is how they looked:

They were very calm and even though the weather conditions were not ideal for photography, I was able to take a nice close-up photos of them:

Here is my friend Terry with the snakes (Terry does over-under photography of salmon and his partner Judy does nature sound recordings):

And yet another close-up:

If you are curious about my photography please visit the Turtle & Nature Store

Here is some background information about the garter snakes:

In Canada, the common garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, can be found all accross the country from Prince Edward Island to British Columbia. They are slender snakes 18' to 26" (record up to 48") in length. When young they eat worms and larvae, and as they grow bigger they will take frogs, fish and rodents. They hibernate during winter and emerge from hibernation in March or April. There are some famous places where garter snakes gather in thousends for the winter seasons. Garter snakes bear live young which number 12 - 40. The birth takes place between July through October. They usually live in wetlands and on the edges of ponds and streams, but they can be also found in residential areas. They are not prone to bite when disturbed but usually secrete a foul-smelling fluid from anal glands. With time, captive individuals lose this tendency as they become used to being handled.

More reading & related links:
        Basic snapping turtle info in one file - Introduction to snapping turtles.pdf (116 Kb)  


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