Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rubber Boa!

Last Saturday I took a long hike up a local canyon to do some plein air painting. Halfway up the canyon I came across an odd-looking but familiar kind of snake, a rubber boa. A few days later I told some people I know about the encounter and someone wanted to know how dangerous rubber boas are. Well, I think a few photos I snapped during the encounter might illustrate exactly just how dangerous these snakes can be:

Yeah, they're THAT dangerous!

Rubber boas are actually the most docile snakes I've ever come across in the wild. They are non-venomous. They're slow and have never even tried to bite me even when I've handled them - and I'm so fascinated by these snakes I catch them every time I see one. They have disproportionately tiny eyes and a tiny mouth even for their small size. Unlike most snakes that have pointy tails (or rattles!) rubber boas are rounded on both ends. These features, along with their coloration, give the rubber boa the initial appearance of a really big earthworm!

Rubber Boas are generally nocturnal. I've come across them only three or four times over the years in my many hikes in the Wasatch mountains. You can read more about rubber boas here.

Rubber boas have defense strategies but I've never seen them in person. I carefully pick them up and handle them gently. They seem cool with that. After a few minutes of awe and wonder I set the snake back where I found it and let it slither off in peace.

It might be better to not handle the snake at all, but uneven lighting prevented me from getting a good photo of the snake on the ground. Besides, I'm such a kid when it comes to nature!

Caution: Catching snakes is not recommended if you are not properly trained and experienced in the matter. If you don't know the difference between snake species, learn! Most snakes can bite. Venomous snakebites (such as rattlesnakes) can be extremely serious. It may seem macho to handle venomous snakes but loosing a hand, arm - or your life - is not macho! I've never tried to catch a rattlesnake and give them a wide berth when I come across them in the outdoors!

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