Was anyone looking? I think not. It would have been yet another proof to the neighbors that the old gringo is completely insane, reaching for a camera instead of a machete when encountering a snake.
A late morning reptile break
photo and note by Eric Jackson
It was time. I needed to make a cat food run if this oversized feline crowd was to get their expected kittie crunchies for dinner. A bunch of them are kittens, who do outrageous things just to test the limit. The adults have learned, so they KNOW how to take revenge if not fed as they demand.
The dogs? Mama Dog is an old lady in her dotage and decided to stay in, but this was Fulita’s and Giselle’s chance to get out for their morning run. Close up the house, make sure that I have everything and my mask is on. Put the key in the gate — or WAIT!!! There is this snake entwined in the gate, with her head a striking distance away from the lock.
Do they have psychologists who do evolutionary ecology? Or some mixture of scientists like that? My lay hypothesis is that it’s hardwired into the human nervous system to be startled when unexpectedly encountering a snake. But then, I was a kid who was brought up weird, so the shock was momentary.
And the snake? If I were a snake in this neighborhood I’d be terrified of people. These vicious humans will kill you for no reason at all! The snake began to move from the gate to the fence, into one of my Mayan Spinach Trees.
I could see from its head that this was not the legendary Extremely Mean Biting snake. Not the sort of serpent to bite you and slither off to a safe perch in the trees, where she can laugh as she watches you die.
Naaaaaah — she’s Oxybelis aeneus, the Brown Vine Snake. A welcome visitor to my garden, who come dry season sometimes raids the dogs’ and cats’ water bowl on the front port. (Dry season is when you are more likely to encounter snakes here, because they are out and about looking for water.) Whatever time of the year that inspect prey on my garden, she’s likely to be a self-invited dinner guest. The vine snakes like to eat insects. Or maybe, if it’s a special holiday, a tiny bird.
She is, however, deadly poisonous, via the small fangs in the back of her mouth. That is, deadly if you are an insect, or a gecko, or a tiny frog. It is said that’s her venom is “harmless to humans.” I’d expect that it hurts if she bites you and I take care not to put that expectation to the test.
Most snakes that don’t want to be bothered will try to warn a human off with a hiss. A vine snake lets off a gross odor instead, and it that doesn’t work will open her mouth wide and rear back. “Mind I bite you!” No need for either of us to threaten one another on this morning. She was a welcome guest in my garden.
She didn’t want to stay still to pose for a portrait, so what’s above is the best picture I got. I opened the gate, the dogs dashed out without paying attention to the snake, Grasshopper the attack cat yawned, I locked the gate and we went on our way, she went on hers.
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