a tale of a tiny snake

As a kid, our garden was a haven for snakes as our garden provided good slug hunting and plenty of cover. I’m sure generations of snakes thrived inside the garden fence. Early on a summer day slithering serpents could be seen diving for cover between the vegetables. Even though the snakes darted to safety as quick as they could, I always caught one if I felt so inclined – which was often. I never harmed any of the snakes I caught, I just liked to examine their markings before setting them free. There are black and brown ones, some with yellow, orange, red, or blue stripes (It turns out there are three species found here: Wandering, Common and Northwestern Garter Snakes).


A preserved garter snake from the local area – but not the one from the optometrist office.

I’m fortunate that the snakes on my island in the Pacific aren’t dangerous – at most my hands would get covered in a stinky pee-like liquid as the captive snake tried a malodorous defense. I did get bit once (I deserved it) but, hardly a mark was left on my skin. Although garter snakes have a mild venom, it is only toxic to the small animals the snake eats. Garter snakes are not a scary snake and the only other snake in the area is the highly endangered slug-eating sharp-tailed snake that reaches a max length of 20 cm. So when someone in the area tells me they have spotted a venomous snake I wonder where it came from, a stow-away in someone’s luggage perhaps?

One late spring afternoon, my husband called to tell me of a venomous snake sighting in an optometrist office near Rithets Bog. Apparently, the optometrist had widely traveled tropical lands and was convinced he knew a venomous snake when he saw one. Somehow, my husband got called to identify and take care of the animal. Intrigued*, I agreed to accompany my husband to the optometrist office on our way to dinner with friends.

When my husband introduced himself to the staff at the optometrist’s office, a small clear plastic box encased in packing tape was produced. Inside was a tiny snake. Even without my expert husband telling me, I knew at first glance it was a baby garter snake. It was less than a few days old, so young it still had its belly button. The tiny snake was darting around its clear prison, looking for a way out. We assume the snake was born near the bog, somehow safely got across a road and parking lot before taking refuge in the optometrist office.

We took the snake and set it free.

*and concerned as my husband regularly tells tales of being bitten by various animals – including some venomous ones.