Sunday, July 06, 2008

Random Eye Dull Photo #12 - Watersnake?

A friend of mine spotted this little guy while we were hiking along an old rail trail in the Douglas State Forest.

It was sitting on the edge of the trail and blended in well with the dark grey gravel from the old rail bed. At first I thought it was dead - a couple of motorized dirt bikes had just gone by and the snake was laying in what appeared to be one of their tire tracks. Fortunately, it turned out to be fine and was soon slithering on its way.

I'm not 100% certain what kind of snake it is. At first I thought it was a black racer, but then noticed the slight banding on its body. Also, the scales on this snake are keeled (they have a raised ridge along the center of each scale) and a black racer has smooth scales. My best guess is its a water snake, which would make sense for the location - there was a swamp on both sides of the trail. Watersnakes have a banding pattern and have keeled scales. The only other snake that comes close to this description would be a rat snake, but from the pictures I've seen, it didn't really look very much like one of those. And rat snakes are rare and endangered in Massachusetts, so it's unlikely that was one.

This particular snake was pretty small - maybe 12 to 14 inches - at least that's my rough estimate. In this final picture you can get a sense of its size based on the tire track in the left foreground and bicycle track in the right background. (Click on the picture to get a slightly larger view.)