Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cottonmouth King

    We kayaked all morning at Hillsdale and the lake was higher than I'd seen it, allowing us to get deeper into some coves. In one particularly swampy and mucky cove, I could see rocky bluffs ahead, beyond where the water could take us. While Joni and Bryan waited, I pulled up to the bank and hopped on the thick, muddy shore, walking ahead to see what I could see, before rejoining my crew.
   Up ahead was a pretty bridge, and the whole area was overgrown, lush, and green. I stood still for a moment, taking a couple shots of the bridge to share with my friends. Suddenly I heard some rather loud movement to my left. The bright green brush began to rustle, as plants nearly as tall as me shook. Something was coming right towards me!
   It was loud enough that I hoped it was a deer, but it was admittedly a little disconcerting that the animal was moving TOWARD me—not an indicator of a prey animal. I stood in shock as the rustling got louder... and louder. Suddenly, a very large black snake popped out of the brush and swiftly slithered past me, so close that it nearly went over my toes. Most snakes I've seen in the wild were thin, racers or garters. This was thick, and longer than my arm span. This was a very confident snake on a mission. 
   My iPhone was already in hand, so I snapped the photos as it flew past me, disappearing into the brush on my right like a serpentine yeti. As soon as it disappeared, I wished that I had knelt to grab its tail, so that I might keep it there to show Joni—she LOVES snakes like I do. I headed back to share the story.
    This morning, I sent the photos to Joni, who immediately suspected that what I had seen was not a relatively harmless (non-venomous) black snake or black rat snake. She noticed the animal's pattern and the shape of its head. It was a COTTONMOUTH (aka water moccasin)! Sure enough, looking at the photos on my laptop rather than my phone gave me the ability to see that this was not just a black snake, it was a patterned snake. The speed at which it was moving and the shady setting made it too hard to see in person. She sent me her notes as proof of what she saw. Wow.
   Thank goodness I had my iPhone at the ready! And that I ignored my instinct to grab this dangerous snake.