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Point of imitating a dangerous snake is to get out of fights

link Sharna Johnson

Local columnist

Rattling tops the list of sounds most likely to kick instinct into high gear and make the hair stand on end.

But if the sound can take one to the edge of a heart attack, actually feeling the vibration of a rattle takes the prize for most visceral experience.

Sunning itself on the pavement, it was a beautiful little specimen, with smooth, golden brown scales.

Too young to have been scarred by hunting and ranging for food like older snakes tend to be, it was obvious the little bull snake hadn’t been out and about the world for long.

Held by the tail, the young snake stretched about 14 inches in length and was no bigger around than an average-sized finger.

Bull snakes are great to have around because they help keep the nuisance folks — mice and the like — under control, so this little guy was a welcome sight … that is until his tail began vibrating against the hand that held it.

Funny thing, in the split second it takes for the thought occurs to you that you have a baby rattle snake by the tail, it doesn’t really matter that it doesn’t look like a rattle snake.

Nope, that simply isn’t the moment to ponder such things at all.

What does happen is the snake gets dropped as fast as possible.

Of course in this particular instance, once the initial panic passed, the snake was found, recaptured, and placed safely in a glass container so it could be observed.

Knowing a bull snake does an imitation of a rattlesnake is one thing, but it’s an easy thing to dismiss as something that could only fool other animals in the heat of the moment. After all, most bull snakes are pretty calm and don’t even bother with the ruse, choosing instead to just get away.

However experiencing the imitation first-hand can be an altogether different thing and in this case, one perhaps made most convincing by the fact this particular little snake had even convinced itself it was a rattlesnake.

From behind the glass, non-stop hissing, coiling, pseudo-rattling and ferocious striking commenced as the little fellow proceeded to try and prove it was the most violent and formidable rattlesnake on the planet.

Sure, there are other significant differences between a rattlesnake and bull snake, for instance a viper’s pupils are elliptical, like narrow cat eyes instead of rounded, and, they have heat-sensing pits along the upper jaw -— but when these traits are attached to a small, fast moving body that repeatedly launches forward in unending attack, it can be a little harder to be certain.

In the end, it was clear the youngin’ was nothing more than an angsty and benign bull snake with a whole lot of attitude.

Of course had he not been so convinced of his own facade — which might have cost him his life in some circles — he would have been sent on his way a lot sooner, but eventually he was freed to take his temper out on neighborhood rodents.

And hopefully, someday, learn the point of imitating a dangerous snake is to get out of fights, not start them.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: [email protected]