I was walking my dog Friday afternoon and stumbled across a huge black rat snake. He was stretched out straight as a piece of very hefty rope, which made it easy to estimate his length. I’d say he went 6 feet easily.
The biggest black rat snake ever documented in Missouri measured 84 inches. The longest on record anywhere was 101 inches — more than 8 feet. That’s a lot of snake!
Two days later, not far from the scene of the first encounter, I met what could have been the big snake’s offspring. The 18-incher was soaking up morning sun, coiled in the outer branches of an evergreen at the corner of my front porch. Unlike the big snake, it stayed put, so got my camera and snapped the accompanying photo.
Soon, snakes will be prowling forests, fields and waters in search of food and romance. If you would prefer never to see one, just remind yourself that the great majority are harmless, and even the dangerous ones avoid confrontations if they can.
Folks who claim to be afraid of snakes, but go out of their way to corner and kill every one they find, baffle me. Some people actually go looking for snakes to kill. That’s illegal, but more important, it reveals a pitiable lack of understanding of the natural world. Snakes belong here, as much as bluebirds and butterflies. Without them, we would be overrun with mice and rats. Speckled kingsnakes are immune to the venom of copperheads, rattlesnakes and cottonmouths, and they devour their venomous kin.
So, before you lop the head off an innocent serpent, ask yourself which you would rather have, a few harmless snakes or a passel of rodents and vipers!