Monday, April 20, 2015

Ssssnakes in Saint Paul!

Post contributed by Ryan Manders, Conservation Corps of Minnesota Youth Outdoors Crew Member:

It is that time of year again, when each day is filled with anticipation. Anticipation for warmer days, for the first cardinal to fly by, for the first flower to bloom, or in our case for the first sighting of a snake. It was early April and after several days of varying high and low temperatures, I lifted my head to the yelling of “SNAKE!” I stopped what I was doing and began to run towards the newly formed circle of my coworkers. As I moved into the circle I was handed a common garter snake about 18 inches long. My eyes lit up and I began to smile as this was the first snake I have seen this year. 

Ryan Manders educating Youth Outdoors crew members on the garter snake they found at Lilydale Regional Park.
Having studied reptiles and amphibians in school, I began talking to all of the local high school students working with us at Lilydale Regional Park and explaining some interesting facts about them. Being cold blooded animals, they use the sun to warm themselves up and give them more energy and as they have been hibernating all winter, they seemed quite cold and sluggish yet. As all the students were getting the chance to hold the snake we watched its tongue flicker in and out of its mouth. As they do this, their tongues pick up chemicals in the air which they use to help find prey and detect predators.

Lilydale Regional Park
While we were standing there we found another snake and a couple more about an hour later. This is not surprising to find them so close together for this time of year because garter snakes will hibernate in large groups, possibly hundreds in one den. They will do this to help conserve their body temperature as they all coil up around each other. As the students finished up their photo session with the snakes, we released them back by a fallen tree and watched them disappear into the leaf litter.