Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Snakes and Young Naturalists

Yesterday's camp activities included a full tour of the boardwalk, which winds through the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp that is the core of the Francis Beidler Forest. Although the water level is once again low, we did see several snakes, a Great Egret and a variety of turtles in and around the remaining pools of water. The images show two of those snakes, an Eastern Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) and a Greenish Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta x quadrivittata).

All that talk of snakes had an effect on one camper. This morning, a young camper came in and described how she and her mom watched a snake shed its skin in their backyard. Malaysia (right in image) wanted the experts at Beidler Forest to identify the snake she had seen, so she brought in the skin that was shed. Mike Dawson, Center Director at Francis Beidler Forest, quickly identified the snake as a "Copper-bellied Water Rattler." In actuality, the snake was likely a species of rat snake or possibly a black racer. However, it is refreshing to hear a child speak of watching a snake in its environment without a thought (by her or the accompanying adult) of killing the reptile. Furthermore, Malaysia moved beyond simply observing the snake to seeking an identifciation and learning more about the animal.

We'll count that as a small victory for Beidler Forest summer camp!

Images by Mark Musselman

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