Snakes on the move, a great opportunity
these first frosty nights of the fall will motivate snakes to head back to their dens. The first warm sunny afternoon after a frost is one of the easiest times to find snakes. The frosty night is the signal to them that they need to find a place to safely get below ground for the winter.
Usually getting to those places requires some travel and often that travel is uphill. For many snakes, a den may be only a hundred yards away, but for some, it is two or three miles away. Sadly, in many cases this trip requires crossing a road. That is why it can be easy to find them. If that road is open and sunny, they may linger on the road surface to warm up. Taking a walk or a bike ride on a quiet country road and watching the road’s surface can result in many snake sightings. Busy roads are unlikely to have many snakes still living nearby, but a quiet road with an overgrown field or wetland on one side and a rocky hillside on the other, can result in dozens of sightings.
Sadly many of these snakes will have been run over, but you will find some still alive as well and you can escort them across the road in the direction they were heading. I used to take my young daughters to a favorite snake-crossing area where we would find dozens of DeKay’s Brownsnakes, Common Gartersnakes, and a few Red-bellied Snakes in a distance of only one-hundred yards.
If I can get you to try this out, keep in mind that the snakes won’t move until the temperature warms up. It may be late morning or early afternoon before they have warmed up enough to begin moving. Remember to survey on quiet, exposed, sunny, country roads with overgrown fields and wetlands on one side and rocky wooded habitat on the uphill side.
As sad as it is to find snakes that have been run over, their presence may still increase our knowledge about the distribution of snakes. So take your camera and take a photo of each kind of snake you find except Common Gartersnakes. We only need photos of Common Gartersnakes from three towns: Pownal, Stannard, and West Fairlee. We don’t need photo-documentation of Common Gartersnakes from any other Vermont towns.
Any other species of snake is worth photographing and reporting. Red-bellied Snake for example, has not been photo-docemnted from 68 Vermont Towns. Of course, if you live anywhere near Pownal, Stannard, or West Fairlee, consider planning a walk or ride in one of those towns.
Please do keep your eyes open and your camera ready for migrating snakes.
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