Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Snaky Panky

Critters, Reptile Courtship Rituals, Western Fox Snake

Warning - The following post includes adult content.  Out in the open.  During daylight hours.  If you are offended by such matters read no further.  And please don't pester The Mothership with complaints.

The Western fox snake - Elaphe vulpina vulpinais characterized by large brown, or black blotches along its back along with smaller blotches along on its sides on a beige to yellow background.  The head of an adult is typically a rusty or copper color.  It is a singularly handsome reptile.  Adults can grow to six feet in length.

They’re not venomous.  Like other non-poisonous snakes they have a pointed tail and round eyes. 

They belong to the group of snakes known as constrictors. They squeeze their prey to death and swallow it whole.  Their lower jaw is unhinged and they’re capable of swallowing a critter five times larger than their head. Yum!

If disturbed – the fox snake emits a musk-like odor that smells like a fox.  Hence its common name. If confronted by a predator they will also coil-up and vibrate their tail in the leaf litter on the ground imitating a rattlesnake to scare it away. 

 May 2010

If you grab one - be careful!  They're capable of inflicting a painful bite but you will not swell-up and die from it.

We see them pretty regularly up north. There is a busted-up concrete silo along with an ancient stone house foundation buried on the property making a perfect hibernaculum for these snakes to over-winter.  There’s probably dozens and dozens of giant serpents hanging out in their musty and spooky-dark subterranean den.

This time of year the snakes are emerging from their underground lair and are engaging in their courtship rituals.  Just like this.

We were pretty lucky to witness this and take a bunch of pictures of some serpents performing the snaky panky.  Frogs and toads sing, turkeys strut and snakes get so twisted-up you can't tell who's on top.  They certainly don't make any noise.  And nobody lights-up a cigarette afterward because everyone knows snakes don't have hands.  It's a shame the video didn’t turn out.

Females will lay up to a couple dozen eggs which will hatch in the fall.

All too often people mistake this snake for a rattler or copperhead.  Which generally results in a deceased fox snake. That’s too bad – because copperheads aren't found in Wisconsin and rattlesnakes go to great lengths to avoid people.  If you're a gardener like me these are my cold-blooded pals as they do a darn good job keeping the rodent and bunny populations in check.  They also leave the vegetables alone.  

Consider them your friend and coil-up with one sometime.

Learn more about Wisconsin’s snakes here.

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