Wild Times: What do you fear?
Most people that dwell upon this planet have something from the animal kingdom that they fear. I am not sure why that is but some of the creatures that we fear really do not need to be feared at all but we still do! I know a young man that has a deathly fear of spiders. I actually have heard lots of people express a fear of spiders but not quite like this fellow. If this young man encountered a spider up on a roof top, I firmly believe that he would jump off of the roof to escape it. Spiders don’t bother me one little bit.
I can tell you what does bother me, though. Rodents bother me. Rodents really bother me. I cannot explain this fear or where it came from. I can tell you this that as badly as that young fellow hates spiders I have the same feeling towards rodents. I hate them. I fear them. I run from them. Years ago, and my friends still remind me of it quite often, I was sleeping in a tent on the ground when some kind of rodent ran over the top of my sleeping bag. I bailed out of that bag in the blink of an eye and slept the rest of the night on the seat of my pickup. I hate them. I fear them. I run from them.
Probably one of the most feared creatures on the planet has to be a snake. Mention snake in a crowd and nine out of 10 people will have their head up like a giraffe scanning the area around them. A couple of weekends ago, my youngest granddaughter was walking around in the grass off of the patio and I was tagging along when we spotted a little 10-inch snake that had been hit by the mower. We were bent over looking it over when my son-in-law walked up. He bent over to gaze at it as well when I picked it up by the tail and flipped it to him. He jumped backwards like he had just touched a high voltage line. I laughed heartily. I don’t think he likes snakes! I love snakes! It really is not hard to figure out why I like them so much. Snakes eat rodents. I love snakes.
For as long as I can remember, we have had a very healthy population of western rat snakes on the ranch. When I say healthy, I mean healthy. These snakes measure around six feet long. I see them all the time and I welcome their presence. These snakes are coal black and are easy to spot and recognize. I have had these predators behind the walls of the well house, in the hay barn, and even in a wren house. The rat snake preys on rodents, other snakes, lizards, frogs, birds, and nests of eggs.
The adult rat snake will eat once every seven to 10 days depending on how successful it was in hunting. I did some checking on the snake and learned that these slithering eating machines can have a home range of up to 25 acres with a population density of up to one snake for every three acres. With the arrival of the month of June it is now time for the rat snake to breed and lay eggs. A female rat snake can lay up to 40 eggs. I am not sure what the nesting success rate is but I am sure it is enough to keep populations good and healthy. The rat snake will disappear in the wintertime to a burrow of some type to wait out the cold weather. I know that I have one that winters behind the walls of my well house in the insulation because I find his shed skin every year just outside the walls. The snake in the picture was lying outside the hay shed sunning himself.
You cannot really tell in the picture but the snake has several lumps in his body and I am assuming that the lumps are from what it has been feeding on. I walked right up to the welcome resident and he never even moved when I placed my foot beside him for a size reference. I fear no snake but I sure do fear what is inside of him!