Sunday, July 1, 2007


Alphonse is a gopher snake, similar to the one in the photo at right. He (or she, for all I know) lives somewhere near our house. Gopher snakes are not venomous, despite their rather close resemblance to the rattlesnakes that are common here. Gopher snakes (which are also very common here) hunt small rodents, such as the gophers, ground squirrels, and various kinds of desert rats that live here -- and even rattlesnakes -- so we like gopher snakes!

But I've had just about enough scares from Alphonse, and I wish he'd be a little more ... polite. I'd appreciate some sort of warning before he shows up again...

The first scare he gave me was a couple weeks ago. I was washing my truck's windshield, and I was standing on a small stepladder so I could reach the center. As I finished and started to climb down my ladder, I looked down -- and saw what looked like a rattlesnake coiled right at the foot of my ladder, and starting to twine about the ladder's steps, as if to climb up. Yikes! Their resemblance to rattlesnakes is deliberate, to scare off potential predators -- and it sure scared this predator! It took me a few seconds to get my heartbeat under control and engage my brain to carefully look at the head (it's not as triangular as a rattlesnake's) and the tail (gopher snakes have no rattles). Ok, it wasn't a rattler...

Then, just a few days ago, I drove into our driveway, parked, and climbed out of my truck. I felt something on my leg, looked down -- and saw a snake climbing my leg! I froze, not wanting to threaten the rattlesnake -- and then, when my brain was working again, I checked it out carefully. Yup, it was Alphonse again. Sheesh! Once I was positive it wasn't a rattler, I just grabbed him behind the head (gopher snakes aren't real quick movers) and unwound him from my leg, and set him near a gopher hole -- which he immediately slithered down. Good -- I hope there were several unsuspecting gophers down there!

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