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Monday, March 29, 2004

Ball of snakes

An elderly friend of our family walked out his backdoor yesterday morning to go to church. He didn’t get very far. On the path between his back porch and garage was a ball of snakes. He said it was the size of a basketball. For the last day and a half, balls of snakes have been the talk of our house. So, I decided to do a little Googling to try and find out what the deal is.

From the Weekly Reader Current Science, 2/8/2002, Vol. 87 Issue 12, p12-13, as reprinted on Melissa Kaplan’s More on Garter Snakes page:

NARCISSE, Canada—One of nature's strangest spectacles happens every spring in southern Manitoba. Tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes emerge from their underground hibernation dens and engage in “mating balls.”

The male red-sided garters emerge first and wait patiently for the females to follow. Each time a female appears, the males surround her. The males look like a mass of “living spaghetti,” said Robert Mason, a zoologist at Oregon State University. The ball of snakes will writhe and sometimes even roll over land, until one male finally mates with the female.

Creepy. While this isn’t exactly snake country, we do have our fair share of garter snakes around here.

From the Moab Happenings Archive:

Ever since Adam and Eve, snakes have gotten a bad rap. Even Noah, the bearded gentlemen, left snakes off the guest register when the Ark set sail. Snakes are the Rodney Dangerfield’s of the reptilian world - they don’t get no respect. So it is no wonder when a snake is sighted most people run for a shovel.

As the warm weather melts away the cool of Spring, snakes emerge from their winter hibernation and disperse. It Is a wondrous sight to see a ball of snakes emerging from their winter den, all tangled together like a ball of yarn. As each snake’s body draws more heat from the environment, the snakes peel off into separate individuals. The party is over for these communal winter den mates, with rattlesnakes, racers and whipsnakes going they separate ways.

That fellow has a definite appreciation of snakes that most of us lack.

Also noteworthy is a reference to Jimmy Buffett’s “A Pirate Looks at Fifty” from an editorial review:

For Buffett, turning 50 "can be a ball of snakes that conjures up immediate thoughts of mortality and accountability. (`What have I done with my life?') Or, it can be a great excuse to reward yourself for just getting there. (`He who dies with the most toys wins.') I instinctively chose door number two."

Posted by Marie at March 29, 2004 10:35 PM