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280 days of Urbpandemonium #16

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In April the snakes around Boston wake up and get right to business! Here are two or three common garter snakes Thamnophis sirtalis in a mating cluster along the fence between our yard and driveway. Once discovered they scattered, and I picked one up for posterity.

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The saliva of garter snakes is toxic, a form of primitive venom that help incapacitate their prey of earthworms, amphibians, and small mammals. The worst it can do to a human is make us a little itchy. This snake didn't bother, and also didn't make use of its more effective defense, emptying the contents of its cloaca--complete with a powerful scent marking musk. That smell may help snakes communicate with their kind, but on human skin it just communicates a need to wash your hands repeatedly to get rid of the clinging stench.

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Garter snakes are gentle creatures, easy prey for cats, dogs, turkeys, and crows in the suburbs. It's possible that their yellow stripes let predators know garters don't taste great--depending on how many toxic amphibians they've eaten. Toad and newt poison can build up in garter snakes, making them one of the few animals that are both poisonous AND venomous.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
gigglingwizard
Apr. 21st, 2015 02:41 am (UTC)
What other animals in the northeastern US are poisonous...as in, toxic to eat? And do you know of any methods for de-toxifying them?
urbpan
Apr. 21st, 2015 10:19 am (UTC)
Toads, millipedes, ladybugs, newts, pretty much any bug or amphibian that's brightly patterned.

Turtles are apparently occasionally and unpredictably very toxic, especially sea turtles.

Don't know of any way to detox these things, sorry.
asakiyume
Apr. 21st, 2015 04:15 pm (UTC)
I *love* them. They are so sweet.
ellettra
Apr. 24th, 2015 10:38 pm (UTC)
I did not know that! Very interesting.
(Deleted comment)
urbpan
Apr. 26th, 2015 11:12 pm (UTC)
Garters are highly variable! Lots of patterning, almost checkerboarding, can happen.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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