All pet owners have
some excellent stories to tell about the animals they share their lives with. Be they
happy or sad, they are proof of the benefits involved with caring for these creatures.
Below are some little anectodes of my own, concerning my snakes!
My first snake
story starts, naturally, with when I decided to become a snake owner. I had been
researching garter snakes for some time in the spring of 2002, and had all of the supplies
needed to care for one. My only problem was in finding them! Unfortunately I live in an
area that is not very populated with snakes of any kind. Luck found me one day at a local
pet store chain, which happened to be selling small Eastern garter snakes. When I
inquired about the animals, the owner told me that she could order Canadian red-sided
garters as well. Due to the Easterns 'garters' actually being ribbon snakes, I agreed to
wait for the order to come in. A few days later, I returned to the store to survey the
shipment. The tank was full of red-sided garters of all sizes, some in shed and some which
may have been gravid. My means of picking out a snake were simple: lower my hand in the
tank and see what happened. All of the snakes but one whipped up into a frenzy and fled to
the corners. One remained, actually approaching curiously. I was able to pick up this
snake and handle it with no struggle on her part. And that's how I chose Pilot, to this
day the most gentle garter snake I have come across. Her docile and curious nature has
made her the first choice if other people want to handle my animals.
During the summer
of 2002, I was employed as a nature specialist at a day camp which was, because of its
setting and having a pond on site, frequented by many species of snake, poisonous and non.
To help educate the children about snakes, I brought Pilot in for several weeks so
children could handle her, as well as a male one-eyed garter snake and a young watersnake
that I had caught and housed at the camp for a few days. Although my talks always
emphasized how important it was to leave wild snakes where they were, many times human
life and wildlife cross paths. I was, in the same day, brought a pair of newborn garter
snakes that had wandered into changing rooms near the camp's pool. Upon a close examinaton
of what appeared to be a pair of brothers, I found one to have a severe underbite. The
lower jaw closed behind the upper jaw instead of meeting it, which meant the snake never
stuck out its tongue to sense the world around it. I believe this snake may actually have
not had a tongue at all. I kept the two brothers, naming the underbitten one Speckle, and
his brother Zeros. Speckle received the most of my attention, getting force-fed small
chunks of minnows and earthworms almost daily to keep up his strength. Although he took in
food, he grew at a fraction of his brother's pace. The two were excellent companion
animals, often cuddling up and hiding together. About two months later, due to a simple
failure to thrive, Speckle passed away one night. Working with the debilitated snake has
given me a great deal of experience with sensing a snake's health, and even though he did
not live, I am happy to have invested my time with him. Now that time is devoted to making
sure that his brother remains happy and healthy.