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Displaced snake

 
pollinator
Posts: 219
Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
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We’ve known for a while now that we are sharing our property with the previous owners — snakes. Our land is filled with rockpiles to bask in the sun, lush vegetation, woodpiles, several natural springs seeping out of the rocks and a creek crossing through the middle of it all. Virtually no neighbors or human interference in the land. I think it is pretty close to snake paradise. So before we started the build project at our house, it came to no suprise that every now and then we’d see something slither away between the tall grass.

We most often spotted a large black snake near the entrance path, which features a rock cliff with plenty of sunlight and plenty of cracks to slither in between. To top it of there is a spring that always provides a trickle of fresh water. We suspected the snake must have had a lair somewhere near the cliff, but due to the vegetation that grows abundantly thanks to the spring, we hadn’t spot it yet.

Now with the build of our house having started, and having trucks from the builders pass the entrance daily, drilling and generally making a hell of ruckus on the building site, I basically expected every snake in the vicinity to have vacated to find a more quiet spot, especially the one living near the entrance.

Yesterday, to my big suprise when scything a patch of grass, we spotted our black snake curled up next to a pile of rocks. Contrary to our other encounters it did not slither away quickly. Instead it remained where it was, even when we used a stick to prod it to gently urge it away from where it was (we wanted to cut the grass in that spot). It did however give us a nice opportunity to study the snake from close-up. It was gorgeous, and like we expected, a useful snake-eating non-venomous local variety called carbonazzo (because it’s completely black). I wondered if the snake was hurt seeing as it moved very slowly. Last week the builders did a large excavation near the entrance path to connect the water and electricity. They made quite a mess, covering the spring near the rock cliff —and my herb beds that were Previously doing marvellous :-( —with rocks and dirt in the process.
I’m thinking the snake, contrary to what I had thought— did not vacate his lair when the build began, and during the excavation maybe got accidentally buried or hurt.

It did not seem wounded, more like a little slow-drunk.
It remained to chill out near the rock pile while we were working nearby. Later on it moved out of its shaded hideout to curl up onto a nice rock in the sun near the water. Mind you we were still working maybe 2 meters away. I suppose it understood we did not want to harm it? Eventually after an hour or so it finally decided to cross the creek, swam over and peacefully slithered away into the tall grass. It was my first close encounter with a snake, and despite everyone around us being so scared of them and telling us to kill it, we found it a wonderful experience to peacefully co-exist with that snake for a couple of hours.

I certainly hope he felt better after having a rest, and that he (She?) feels inclined to build a new nest somewhere else on the property.
Do snakes do that? Or will they move further? I do hope the snake wants to stay. Earlier this year we had also spotted a tail of a light brown, shorter and fatter snake stick out from the grass. This one did not move away when we came closer, and could potentially be an Adder, which is a dangerous venomous species. I’m just hoping the presence of our black carbonazzo snake can keep the dangerous snake population in check.

No real question in this post (other then perhaps: what can I do to promote the presence of one species of snake while discouraging the other), just wanted to share the experience :)
FCC6521E-B490-4099-8045-AF7948FCB791.jpeg
Hiding in the shady grass
Hiding in the shady grass
012C1A7B-4DED-4669-A84E-EE910391322A.jpeg
Snits, our friendly neighbourhood snake
Snits, our friendly neighbourhood snake
5C8D356D-4AE9-46D9-BE63-5FC32D810489.jpeg
Enjoying the sun on a mossy rock
Enjoying the sun on a mossy rock
 
S. Bard
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Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
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A little update on the snake encounter.
Yesterday, while checking up our fruit trees, my husband -- who refuses to wear high boots or sock in summer -- nearly stepped on a snake. Spotted him last minute between the grass right next to our peach tree.
Fortunately it was another Carbonazzo snake, most likely the same one we encountered Saturday as we spotted it in the same piece of land that the snake went into after crossing the river. Hopefully the fact that it's still there means it is trying to find a new den to overwinter in?

But then, a few hours later, when I was checking out another piece of land further away, looking up to the canopy to try and identify the trees growing there --instead of looking at my feet as I should have --, I actually stepped on a snake that was lying on the cleared path way ( the kind of path that has two cleared strokes where the wheels from a car or tractor pass, and then higher grasses in between). I spotted him in the very last millisecond out of the corner of my eye and made a really weird weight-shifting jump --and a noise reminiscent of a distressed turkey -- in an attempt to avoid putting my full weight on the poor bugger. After recovering a second from my heart skipping a few beats, I went to check what I actually stepped on. Luckily --for me, not the poor sod I squished -- it was another one of these Carbonazzo snakes, though a different, slightly smaller specimen than earlier. Had that been an adder it would definitely have tried to bite me, and that could have been a nasty situation. The little snake seemed rather offended, but I don't think I hurt him really bad. Can snakes break bones? I hope I didn't.

But what is going on? Stepping on 2 different carbonazzo snakes in the span of a few hours? From what I know these snakes (which are a fully black sub variety of the whip snake), are the fastest snakes living in Italy, and usually just go away when they hear the vibrations of an approaching human. But instead these snakes are 1. not leaving, even when we make a heck of a ruckus , 2. are anything but the super fast noodles we've seen in spring, instead they move super slowly, or not move at all and stay put.
What is going on? Do I just have an unusually large and healthy population of snakes in my area, causing us to (almost) step on two of them, while we most likely passed and not noticed a dozen others. Or is it a seasonal thing where these snakes behave different, like a pre-hibernation kind of thing where there metabolism starts to slow down, causing them to move more slowly, making them easier to spot and step on because they don't move out of the way like they normally would? As a contrast, we didn't spot a single snake during the whole of summer. and only spotted 2  (just the tails shooting away in the grass like a bullet from a gun) in spring after nobody had set foot on our property for 3 months due to Corona restrictions.

Once again, I don't mind the presence of these snakes as long as they do their thing and I can do mine. But constantly tripping over them is another thing! Anyone have experience with this sort of weird behavior?
 
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Not sure what your weather is like or what the normal breeding season of your snakes is like, or how cold it gets, but snake  activity changes depending on breeding season, food availability, or preparation for winter. The habitat looks fabulous for them, not having any human disturbance for a few months certainly helped them feel at home. Now the environment as well as their food (mice, frogs) are also reacting to the human presence, so they may be going after them. They may be sluggish depending on what time of day it is and whether they have gotten to 'recharge' in the sun or are digesting.
It sounds like you have a good handle on which snakes are dangerous to you and which aren't. If you keep the greenery lower and remove hiding places the snakes will tend to move away and find safer (quieter) places. Until then, watch where you step and maybe carry a stick to bang around the longer vegetation to warn the snakes of your presence (or nudge them on their way, if need be).
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