10 October 2007

Snakes in the Grass

For obvious reasons, you don't see a lot of reptiles on the west side of the Cascades, particularly once summer is over; grey skies and constant rain hardly are hardly ideal for an animal that can't regulate its own body temperature. Yet, as I learned this weekend, reptiles can do pretty well for themselves even during a Northwest autumn. I have had ridiculous luck this summer as far as seeing wildlife, having figuratively stumbled across blue whales, condors, and ocean sunfish (among other animals) while in California; this weekend while hiking up Spencer's Butte, the rocky monolith that looms over Eugene, I literally stumbled across not one, but two species of snake. The first was a gopher snake, a species I've never seen before, and the second was a garter snake which, while far from rare, is one of the most brightly-colored reptiles you'll ever encounter in a temperate climate. If you ever get a chance to just sit back and watch a snake go about its business, I certainly recommend it. No animal gets from place to place quite like a snake, and it never ceases to amaze me how versatile a legless animal can be. I've seen snakes climb trees, wend their way through dense leaf litter, and swim down streams, all with the same fluid motion and apparent ease. I'm sure we've all heard people wax poetic about galloping horses or soaring eagles, but for my money, nothing quite matches the fluid sinuosity of a snake's slither.

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