November’s End Surprise Snake


By the time I was leaving 3RF it was around 11 am on November 30th. It was a brisk 52 degrees with blowing wind.

Every time I leave I drive slowly to see what birds to document. Then all of sudden I saw a wiggly movement in front of the car. It was a surprise snake – in this cold!

I’ve gotten consistent warnings to watch out for snakes at 3RF, but since my time at 3RF I’ve only ever encountered a green water snake at the beaver pond coming out of the abandoned beaver lodge and now this one.

I jumped out of the car and followed it into the grass just off the roadway. It froze immediately and allowed me to capture some images.

It was a checkered garter snake (Thamnophis marcianus) with a yellow stripe. Apparently, the colder temperature was not phasing it at all. Plus, it tells me its either using the water tank on the ranch property next to the 3RF or it was headed to a water source I’ve not yet discovered on the property because they are never far from a water source.

Interesting facts about these non-venomous snakes: it’s not a protected species in Texas and can be hunted with a hunting license. They apparently eat earthworms, amphibians, and fish. Since I never seen any fish at 3RF this one has been dining on amphibians and earthworms.

While I’m always cautious during high temperatures to watch for snakes, I’ll be ever cautious now in 50-degree temperatures because apparently, not all snakes need really warm temperatures to move about. Now – to find the next snake wiggling across the landscape.



Photographs – © Christena Stephens