There’s nothing like that moment of realization when you idily google something and realize that hmm, that interesting little snake you saw a month or so back, sunning on the rocks, and prodded delicately with a twig, (from a safe distance*, mind you) to make sure he wasn’t dead (he wasn’t) was none other than our local buddy, the rather venomous copperhead.
This moment is not made any better by James saying “Oh, yeah! That’s what I saw when I was biking! He was on the trail! I thought about moving him, but I figured I shouldn’t mess with strange snakes.” Smart man.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, there is exactly ONE kind of poisonous snake, and it kindly advertises itself by rattling if you’re anywhere near it. It is a mild-mannered, shy little snake, and the two of you want nothing more in the world than not to bother each other, so there is a kind of mutual awkward courtesy at work. “OH GOD, DON’T STEP ON ME, BIG THING!” and “OH, GOD! DON’T LET ME STEP ON YOU, LITTLE POISONOUS THING!” Hey, the system works. I’ve encountered a few rattlesnakes, and without exception, we both went our seperate ways politely and with a minimum of fanginess.
Moving to the South, however, is alien territory. They have all kinds of new poisonous snakes, and none of them are polite about it. Cottonmouths are supposed to be downright vicious. I am trying to educate myself as to the markings of the locals–like James, I don’t mess with ANY snake, having been well trained by my father, an avid herp collector–but it would be nice to know what I have to back away slowly from and what I can go “Hey, neat! Rat snake!”
*i.e. about six times the body length of the snake, straight down. I’m not a total idiot.