Saturday, July 7, 2012

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake - A Beautiful Creature

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake

I have a fear of heights, but I love to climb mountains. I'm scared of snakes, but I will eagerly handle them. A few days ago while hiking the shoreline of a small mountain lake, we encountered a Western Terrestrial Garter Snake.

My first reaction was to recoil in fear. Surprised to see a snake at this elevation, we cautiously observed the reptile for a little bit. He was about two feet long and a striking yellow-gray in color with dark patterns. He appeared fairly harmless.

Modern symbolic traditions tend to stress the negative role of the snake - like the fear inducing danger of it's venomous bite. As a teenager in Western Nebraska working on a cattle ranch, we were under direct orders to kill any rattlesnake seen near the homeplace. That's something I couldn't do today.

Older legends and myths, however, often include mysterious, positive traits of the snake. The snake is often associated with healing and reincarnation. Native Americans revered the serpent and it's symbol related to transformation, fertility, patience and feminine powers.

We easily captured the snake and because of a calm manner and gentle handling, it settled down quickly and seemed quite tame. We studied the beautiful creature intently and then set it free. These amazing, non-venomous snakes live in mountain habitats where most other reptiles can't.

They have been found high above treeline. It's pretty cool that the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake has adapted to life in the cold and snowy montane and subalpine life zones where few other reptiles could survive. Snakes, snakes, snakes... I hate 'em but I love 'em.

Shoreline of a mountain lake

Fairly harmless

A beautiful creature

Lives where other reptiles can't

Adapted to life in the mountains

I hate 'em but I love 'em

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