I spend almost all my time working with, contemplating, or writing about technology, however I do occasionally get away from the computer. Now that the weather is getting cooler, I thought I’d reflect back on a few adventures we’ve had recently that were decidedly not technology related.
This is a blacktip shark I caught off the coast of Sandbridge, Virginia this summer. It was hard enough to pull in that I was thankful for the sudden rain that kept me cool. He was released completely unharmed right after the picture was taken.
This is an American bullfrog I caught in a pond while on vacation. I had no idea how to catch a bullfrog, so I invented a method. I used a flashlight to spot and subsequently blind the frog while I got close enough to extend a fishing net with a three-foot handle above her. All I had to do then was startle her, and she leaped right into the net. Sounds easy, but it took me at least a dozen tries with as many different frogs. She was completely unharmed and released after a brief photo shoot.
This is probably one of the biggest northern water snakes I’ve caught. When distressed, they release a horrible musk which you will probably smell like for the rest of the day. They are also extremely vicious snakes. This one didn’t manage to bite me, but last year, I had a northern water snake tooth removed from my thumb.
Another vicious but harmless reptile, this is a terrible picture of a broad-headed skink I grabbed in front of a friend’s house. He held on so tightly that I didn’t want to pull him off for fear of injuring him. I finally put my hand down on the ground and let go of him, and once he felt the ground beneath him again, he let go and took off.
I have dozens of other photos that show I don’t spend my entire life in my basement office (Snake Rescue, Two Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Garter Snake), however this summer was busy enough that I feel like I hardly got away at all. It’s only September, and I’m already looking forward to next spring.
Update: The photograph below (taken by my daughter) is now part of the Wikipedia article on Garter snakes, and is the best picture of a posterior tooth I’ve seen.
Garter snakes are probably the best known species of snake in the US. They are easy to recognize, and they occur just about everywhere in North America. Most people will tell you that garter snakes are harmless, which they are, but probably not quite as harmless as you might think.
Garter Snakes Have Pretty Big Teeth
The picture above is of the snake I recently caught which taught me that garter snakes have relatively large teeth. Although he was very aggressive, I caught him without being bitten, however while holding him, he managed to get one of his teeth into my thumb (I would have been more careful if I’d known what he was packing). For a moment, I thought I’d misidentified him, but his markings couldn’t have been more clear. I used a small stick to (very gently) open his mouth, and sure enough, he had two needle-sharp teeth in there. While doing some research when I got home, I discovered another surprising fact:
Garter Snakes are Venomous
It was recently discovered that the saliva of a garter snake contains a very mild neurotoxin. Rather than injecting it through fangs, they spread it into wounds (presumably caused by those teeth) through a chewing motion. Although the venom of a garter snake is only potent enough to cause some minor swelling or itching in a human, it can stun a toad or small rodent enough to make swallowing it much easier.
This is why it’s so important to clean up debris you find outside. This deer fencing probably blew out of someone’s yard in a storm and ended up in a creek by the Potomac. The garter snake inside was so ensnared that the fencing was cutting through his scales in several places.
It took about 30 minutes to fully cut him out of the nylon mesh. We’re keeping him until his wounds heal since they may become infected.
We took our first walk through the woods this year. Algonkian Park is one of our favorite spots, and it’s only about five minutes from the house. We caught a pretty big northern water snake, a wood frog, and we saw a very large fishing spider (which I did not attempt to catch).
Check out the photos on Flickr.