Saturday, July 19, 2008

Are all big brothers this mean?

The Black Racer snake is one of the first snakes that I ever caught in the wild. It is a very beautiful glossy black with a white chin. One characteristic of the Black Racer is that they are very defensive when you are trying to catch them. They will bite repeatedly and strike so fast that you don't have time to react. When you think that you have them, they actually have you. The best way to catch them is to follow them until they think they are camouflaged. They will then stay still and if you slowly approach them, you can pin them down with a flexible stick or something that won't injure them. Then grab them carefully behind the head. (note: Black Racers are listed with a top speed of 8 m.p.h., but my experience is that they can be much faster. At Alfred B. Maclay Gardens in Tallahassee I noticed a Black Racer's head standing up above the tall grass like a periscope. I started sprinting full speed toward the snake and thought for sure that I could catch it because it was in a large open field about 30 yards away from me. The snake, which was about 5 feet long, fled toward the woods. I was gaining on the snake, but not quickly enough because it beat me to the woods and disappeared into the thick vegetation. My estimation of the Racer's top speed is 14 m.p.h.) After you catch the crazy snakes, it is usually only a minute or two before it is calm enough to release the head hold. The snake will then have no interest in biting you. With wild-caught racers, you must go through the head hold/calming procedure every time you get them out of the cage or you can expect a vicious bite. One day my sister, who is a year younger, and her friend came to the back yard where I had about 20 Black Racers in a large cage (note: all of my snakes were released after a short time) and I was holding 2 of them. My sister had never taken one out of the cage and was not aware of the necessary calming procedure, but she wanted to show off one of the snakes to her friend. She asked if she could hold one. I said sure and then began to watch, knowing what would happen. She reached for the largest Black Racer in the cage and it immediately struck and bit her arm. She was shocked, hurt, and embarrassed in front of her friend. For some reason she didn't trust my snake advice after that. She still reminds me about that to this day, but she has forgiven me. Strangely, out of my 6 siblings, she is probably the only one that would have a pet reptile or hold a snake. I guess I will take credit for that.