Date: 9/26/19 7:19 am
From: 'George Hammond' via Birders <birders...>
Subject: Re: [birders] NON BIRD: snake ID
This time of year snakes are moving to places where they can safely spend the winter. That may be why this watersnake was far from the water.

Snakes need a sheltered place where the temperature will stay at least a little above freezing. Most of our species use deep holes in the ground, deep enough to stay below the frost line. Snakes can’t really dig, so they have to find other natural cavities: old animal burrows, holes formed by roots when a big tree falls, small caves or deep crevices in rocks. Here in lower Michigan we have almost no exposed rock or outcrops, so safe dens are less common than in other areas, and snakes sometimes have to travel further to find them. They often use the same one for years. Young ones will follow the scent of older ones to find them, and multiple individuals of different species may use the same one. A few of our species overwinter in crayfish burrows, where the crayfish has dug down into the water table. Groundwater is chilly, but stays above freezing. So the snake spends the winter submerged, with just its nose above water to breathe.
Human construction sometimes accidentally creates winter den sites too. Foundations of abandoned buildings, old wells, and similar structures are used.

By the way, watersnakes really like to eat round gobies. Round gobies are a small invasive fish species that eat the eggs of native game fish, and sometimes pass botulism toxin to birds.



> On Sep 24, 2019, at 9:06 PM, 'Suzanne (Moses) Vedder' via Birders <birders...> wrote:
> Researching MI snakes a bit further, I concluded that my visitor is a Northern Water Snake. I must be correct, because all of the responses I received suggested the same. 😉 Its odd... I am a good 400 yds up a steep incline from the lake, and the snake was on my cement porch in the shade. It was very docile. I didn't try to pick it up, though. I can add it to my MI snake list!

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