Saturday, 24 May 2014

Real Live Mating Ball

Snake in the grass

I know nothing of snakes.  It is one of the creatures not generally found in Newfoundland though growing up I heard rumours of grass snakes and sea snakes being around, but I had no personal experience with either.  Last year in April in the back yard, I had the opportunity to get up close and personal with not just one, but dozens of snakes.  I observed what I learned afterwards was a snake mating ball.
 It was a beautiful day, one of the first truly warm days of spring.  I was hanging clothes on my line and it happened a snake caught my eye.  Then I could see other garter snakes emerging from all directions but all gathering on one rock.  In no time there were hundreds of snakes all writhing and coiling around each other; I was fascinated and I called hubby to come look.  He took one look and headed in the opposite direction, while I continued to watch something I had never seen in my life before.  After a few minutes I could see the snake meeting was breaking up; snakes began to move away slipping through the grass and back down into the various openings in the rocks.  I watched till the end when they all had disappeared all the while wondering what was it all about.  When I came back into the house, I looked it up on the internet and on Youtube I found a video of the exact happening I had just witnessed...it was called a snake mating ball.  I guess a female garter snake had emerged from the winter den, emitted her special aroma and immediately all males in the area smelled her and attempted mating; apparently only one lucky fellow gets the prize though scientists are not entirely positive about that.  I said to hubby imagine how lucky I was to have been out hanging up clothes just at the time a real live mating ball occurred.  Lucky, he scoffed, I'm not sure I'd call that luck. 
Imagine seeing anacondas doing a similar thing.  They behave exactly the same way, all the males wrapping around a female and each other in what is called a breeding ball.  Now that would be something to see!

This little guy was in front of the greenhouse, then slid inside to keep me company for awhile.  

I love his markings; the design along his body is surprisingly intricate.