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A Study of Snakes: Armed with New Information

I waited to post my snake entry until the results of the snake poll were in. It was interesting to me to see just how my readers experience snakes. There were 113 people who responded to the poll.

How Often Do You See Snakes?

Frequently 9 votes
A few times a month 17 votes
A few times a year 55 votes
Rarely 24 votes
Never 7 votes

What Kind of Snakes Have You Seen?
Garter 78 votes
Milk 8 votes
Water 37 votes
Rattlesnake 18 votes
Other 64 votes

We are not a big snake family. Although we have had pet iguanas in the past and currently we have fire-bellied toads, snakes have not been a big fascination with my children. Our only on-going contact with snakes has been through our cats when they bring a dead one home and leave it on our doorstep. They are usually the small kind that don’t bring much distress when we see them.

Fire-bellied Toad
I do not take many photos of snakes so I decided to share our fire-bellied toads instead. This is Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley.

Occasionally we will see bigger more scary snakes on our hikes. This spring we have seen two rattlesnakes, one dead and one alive and curled up practically in the middle of the trail. We gave him some distance and left him alone.

We decided to research the garter snake since this is the most common one we see in our backyard or neighborhood. We found more information on this website: Identifying California Garter Snakes. After looking at the ranges and the photos of the garter snakes we potentially could see in our area, we narrowed our garter snakes down to two kinds:

Sierra Garter Snake or the Mountain Garter Snake

Garter snake journal
We made drawings and journal entries for both these snakes and the next time we come across one, we will be better equipped to identify it.

We also made a list of potential snakes to study in the future:
California Kingsnake
Western Rattlesnake
Gopher snake
California Striped Racer
Western Yellow Bellied Racer
Northern Rubber Boa

My son brought me the current issue of the National Wildlife magazine to show me an article on garter snakes. Lots of interesting bits in the article that helped us understand this snake a little better. (If you click the link above it will take you to an online version of the article, scroll down to the part about garter snakes.)

I encourage all to pick a snake and take a few minutes to learn some facts about it. I find it interesting that the more I know about something, the more I appreciate its beauty. Yes, even snakes.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge Spring Series #8: Reptiles-Snakes

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Spring Series #8
Reptile Study-Snakes

“There are abroad in the land many erroneous beliefs concerning snakes. Most people believe that they are all venomous which is far from true. The rattlesnake still holds its own in rocky, mountainous places, and the moccasin haunts the bayous of the southern coast; however, in most localities, snakes are not only harmless but are beneficial to the farmer.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 193

Inside Preparation Time:
Snakes are a topic that most children are interested in learning more about. Read pages 193-194 in the Handbook of Nature Study. Make sure to highlight perhaps four or five points that you want to relate to your children before you observe a snake. Our local pet shop always has a few snakes available and they are eager to let us take a look and perhaps even hold one or two. Check around and see if you can find a local pet shop or a zoo that has a good reptile display as part of this Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Choose one or two snakes to learn about that you may find in your local area (Lessons 49-51)

  • Garter or Garden Snake pages 194-196 (This snake is the most widely distributed snake in North America.)
  • Milk Snake or Spotted Adder pages 197-198
  • Water Snake pages 198-199
  • Various snakes discussed with images pages 200-203

Outdoor Hour Time:
It is rare to observe snakes in the wild. This challenge is more about general knowledge and arming ourselves with some truths about a creature that perhaps we might encounter at some point in our lives.

You have two choices.
1. Take a field trip to a pet shop or zoo to observe a snake in real life. You may also know someone who has a pet snake that would be willing to let you observe their snake. Make sure to complete the inside preparation work before you go so you have some facts about snakes ready to share.
2. Talk about where a snake would live in your local area. You might need to do a little research for your particular state. Spend 15 minutes outdoors playing snake detective carefully looking for signs of snakes. You will be successful even if you just enjoy your backyard and observe anything that your child finds of interest. The most important thing is to get outdoors!

Follow-Up Activity:
Complete a notebook page for any or all of the snakes you researched during your preparation work or you observed up close. You can use the provided notebook page from the Spring Series ebook or a blank nature journal. You can look up your snake on the internet and use the image found there to draw your snake for your journal. Make sure to show the colors of your snake as best you can.

If you would like all the Spring Series Challenges in one place, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. The ebook also contains art and music appreciation plans for the spring months as well as custom notebooking pages for each of the challenges. Please see this entry for more details:
Spring Series Cover
Spring Nature Study with Art and Music Appreciation

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

The Summer Nature Study ebook is included in the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership!