FOWT News, Updates & Posts


World Snake Day

Today, July 16, is the World Snake Day, and that is a good opportunity to take a closer look on what is happening to Wolf Trap’s residential watersnakes.

“I wanna be a snake, ‘cos they can lie when walking.”
(a preschool hiker in an old Czech comedy)

There are many watersnakes living in the Wolf Trap park, but on this festive day, I will update an earlier post that focused on a pair of watersnakes living near the Gazebo bridge. To maintain compatibility, I will continue calling them “Archibald von Wolf Trap” and “Joan of Park”, although it is a bit of a misnomer, as in the meantime, I learned that both are most likely females (males of the species are smaller).

Their daily activities take place mostly in two areas. On the rocky slope on the upstream side of the Gazebo bridge (which is Archibald’s domain) and in the convoluted root system of a tree on the meadow side of the creek, about 100 feet upstream from the bridge (that is Joan’s domain).

Archibald seems a bit darker, while Joan is a bit lighter with hints of orange on her belly side. But those are not very distinctive traits and, in general, I use their names to merely mark the location. The snake from the bridge is Archibald and the one from the root system is Joan. In reality, they probably commute between the two locations, so some of the names below may be mixed up.

The season started on an amorous note.

This is Joan being courted by one of the males in her root system.
And Archibald (left) was propositioned too.
All this wooing and cooing resulted in one big free-for-all party at the root system in mid-May. By my rough count this tangle consisted of 2 females and 3 males.
If those snakes were doing what I think they were doing, we can expect an explosion of little snakies later this summer. Watersnakes are viviparous (embryos develop inside the mother’s body) and births from Spring mating usually take place in late summer.
After the party, the root system was mostly taken over by males.
Joan made only sporadic appearances.
The males worked tirelessly on their suntan…
…but on occasion hunted in the creek…
…or waited for prey on the rocks (waiter, prey on the rocks, please!).
By mid June, Joan could be seen more often.
Sometimes bathing in the creek below the roots.
When she got out, she was a bit ticked off that I was trying to take a picture of her without a towel on.
The bridge was virtually free of snake activity till about mid June, when Archibald decided to return to her usual resting quarters in the slope behind the bridge.
From then on, I could often see her inside the hollow beam.
One day, I caught a rare moment when they were both present, Joan is on the beam, Archibald hiding between rocks and leaves on the right.
On my way back, Archibald has repositioned herself, so it was easier to take a closer look.
Joan was still chilling on the beam.
This picture from high noon (with sun shining almost directly in) suggests that they both live in the beam now. They are fairly shy though – sometimes I see a head sticking out and by the time I approach the hole, the snake retracts.
On some days, you may see Archibald lying in a flat area between the bridge and the first tree on the woods side. But it is usually well concealed and hikers passing by won’t even notice her presence just a few feet from the trail.
She loves to catch the afternoon sun.
Snakes shed their skin several times a year to adjust and clean up. One afternoon, I found Archibald shedding hers in the creek (see video below) and the next day, she sported a brand new tight outfit. Just a tad upstream from the root system. We might say Emperor’s New Clothes.

Some videos of Archibald:

Archibald sheds its skin
Archibald swims across the creek
Archibald hunts along the bank
Archibald goes home

And last, but not least – a word from our Sponsor:
Do you change your Snake Oil every 5000 feet?
If you need assistance, call 1-800-YOU-LUBE.


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