Basking Baby, Baby the Bullsnake wakes up from winter hibernation on a warm, sunny March morning, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
Guess who woke up?
Baby the Bullsnake emerged from her winter coil and slithered in all her elongated glory around the cage this past Thursday morning. Jim called me out to look, and as soon as I got near she glided in my direction and madly flicked her tongue about.
Did she wake up hungry?
It was a perfect day for coming out of deep slumber. The sun was strong and her space warm. Since keeping about a dozen geraniums and other annuals in the room, her potting shed house has a loamy smell and feel.
Bullsnakes are one of the largest snakes in the U.S. They are non-venomous, but since they tend to look like rattlesnakes (both have yellow scales with brown markings) and coil and shake their tails when provoked, people sometimes mistakenly slaughter the bullsnake.
But the truth is, the bullsnake is beneficial to the environment, and especially to farmers. Because of their size—they can grow up to almost six feet—the bullsnake eats fairly large mammals, such as rats and the destructive gopher. (In fact, bullsnakes are a sub-species of the larger gopher snake species.)
Bullsnakes get their name from the fact that they sometimes make a loud snorting noise, like a hiss but with deep breathing put into it. (When Baby does this she reminds me of those accordian-like contraptions used to stoke a fire. Her whole body contracts and expands, contracts and expands, as if she’s hyperventilating.)
Bullsnakes come out of hibernation when temperatures rise in spring. It’s important their homes have both shady areas and sunny so they can move to the shade in the hottest parts of the day and into the sun when it’s cool. (Snakes are attracted to heat, including that warmth that tends to accumulate on a road black-top, which is why we often see snakes run over by cars.)
Baby will soon be getting her first meal of the season—a live rat from the pet store. I imagine she’ll be hungry. She’ll squeeze the rat with her body and then swallow it whole, head first. She won’t chew it, but rather it will move through her body and be digested over a matter of days. And, as it expands her body, her skin will likely start shedding. And Jim or one of the girls will call me to come look as the old skin gets left behind and leaves behind a shiny brilliant new layer.
- Reptiles and Amphibians of Minnesota (QM, you need to keep an eye out for bullsnakes in your part of the world)
- Bullsnakes Are Beneficial Environmentalists!
- New Mexico Snakes — recognizing the poisonous ones and controlling them around homes
- Frank Thayer — Reptiles
- Snake Shedding 101