Two years ago, I saw seven moose while traveling on hiking trails and logging roads; and I now refer to that summer as the “Summer of Moose.” So it seems only appropriate, after seeing at least five snakes while on the trails this summer, to dub this summer “Summer of Snakes.”
The five I can clearly remember I spotted while at Gulf Hagas near Brownville, on Beech Cliffs in Acadia National Park, on the AMC trails near Greenville, at the foot of Acadia and St. Sauveur mountains in Acadia National Park, and just recently at the foot of Tunk Mountain near Cherryfield. And I suspect there are a few snakes I’m leaving out.
I figure it’s time to answer a few questions for myself and blog readers about Maine snakes.
Are there poisonous snakes in Maine? No, there are no poisonous snakes native to Maine.
But we’ve all seen those scary TV programs where snakes are killing people left and right. How many types of snakes are there? There are more than 2,700 species of snakes in the world, according to a publication by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and they live almost everywhere (except for some islands and places where the ground stays frozen all year round .. and no, that doesn’t include Maine).
How do Maine snakes affect people? Aside from scaring the bejesus out of people, snakes are actually quite beneficial. They help control insect and rodent populations.
What does a snake give her baby at bedtime? A goodnight hiss… OK, moving on.
What are the snakes of Maine? The common ones, according to the Maine Herpetological Society, are Maritime garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis pallidulus), northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon), eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum), northern redbelly snake (Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata), northern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsi), smooth green snake (Liochlorophis vernalis) and eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis).
The less common snakes are eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus), northern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis), northern ribbon snake (Storeria dekayi dekayi), and the northern black racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor), which is endangered.
Never knew there were so many snakes in Maine? Me neither. You should check out some photos of these snakes at http://www.maineherp.org/.
I always thought I was seeing garter snakes. Now, I realize, I may have been wrong.
But I think the main reason hikers miss seeing snakes is that snakes blend in with the leaves and especially the many roots that twist over woodland footpaths in this state. And I think the reason I’m seeing snakes more often lately is because I’ve been looking at trails carefully in an effort to take cool photos for this blog. When I hike quickly, I rarely see snakes or frogs or salamanders. It’s when I slow down that I start to notice these creatures because in general, they try to get out of my way, and if I’m looking at the ground closely, I see that sudden movement.
What’s neat about Maine snakes (that I’ve noticed) is they’ll often slither to the side of the trail and freeze (perhaps a tactic so that they blend in better?). That’s the perfect time to take a photo like the one below. I recommend zooming in from quite a few feet away, though. Once you get close, it’ll rush off. And never chase wildlife (unless hunting, of course). You’ll stress the animal out and you might cause the animal harm if it is forced to run (or fly, or slither) through areas they normally wouldn’t go.