CRITTERS AT BRAZOS BEND STATE PARK--SNAKES non-venomous 3
This page was born 10/23/2006.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update: 02\27\2013
Images and contents on this page copyright 2002-2013 Richard M. Dashnau 

Here are my other Brazos Bend and/or critter pages:
 ----------------------------------------------------------------                  OR,  FOR OTHER ANIMALS:
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Introduction                  Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Snakes-nonvenomous 1-------------------------------------------      Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Snakes-nonvenomous 2-------------------------------------------------Insects, non-toxic
Snakes-nonvenomous 3------------------------------------------------Spiders

Snakes-nonvenomous 4------------------------------------------------
Snakes-venomous
------------------------------------------------------Mammals 
Snakes-Texas Rat Snakes------------------------------------------------
Birds-Waders
----Birds-Raptors---------------------------------
     Lizards!--Turtles!

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 That's me on a trail (03/29/2004). As I get more pictures, these pages expand. I've gotten enough images of snakes to collect them here. For most of my identification, I'm using "Texas Snakes-a field guide", by James R. Dixon and John E. Werler (2000, 2005)

March 29, 2006  The image below is from one of the photos I took with my digital still camera at Brazos Bend State Park.  I was by the 40-acre observation tower, and there was a small group of people there. I was talking about the animals we could see from there (nutria, etc.), when a man shouted "SNAKE!". 

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I turned around, and a man sitting on the bench pointed at a snake slithering almost between his feet.   I ran over and picked it up (it was about 8 inches long), and discovered that it was a Western Mud Snake (Farancia abacura reinwardti) ! So,  after I explained (I did this a number of times) that I ONLY picked up the snake so it wouldn't get stepped on, I talked about it; and about a hoop snake, and about "stingers" on snake's tails, and so on. About 5 or 10 minutes later, I heard another shout, of "ANOTHER SNAKE!".  I turned, and it was the same guy who'd seen the first one. He was still sitting on the end of the bench. And, ANOTHER young Mud Snake was crawling right towards him!  This time, it got to the grass under the bench before I could catch it, and I lost that one. That was pretty funny.  That guy wouldn't sit on the bench any more, even though he stayed around for a while. When it finally got quiet, I let the snake go.  Before I did, I took a few pictures, and a few short video clips. You can see one clip here (wmv 2126kb).

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SNAKE IN MY HAND                                               SHARP TAIL OVER HEAD                                              BRILLIANT UNDERSIDE                                           UNDERSIDE, CLOSER 

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                     CLOSEUP OF THE HEAD                             FRAME FROM THE VIDEO CLIP (WMV 2126KB) 

A lot of people (including me) have been seeing the Bitterns eating small snakes lately. I couldn't tell what kind of snakes I saw
then. The Mud Snake is easily identifiable by the glossy, sometimes iridescent dark back and brilliant red with black underside. Mudsnakes have small eyes, with round pupils, and a head that is no wider than its neck. It also has a sharp spine at the end of a short tail. This spine looks like a stinger, but is harmless to humans. 
 Here's some more information about this snake, from my copy of Texas Snakes, by Werler and Dixon. 1 species of Mud Snake is listed, the Western Mud Snake (Farancia abacura reinwardti). The adults are generally 3 or 4 feet long. According to the book, this is one of the most docile snakes likely to be encountered in the field. The favored food of the Mud Snake is said to be amphiumas or sirens.  Both of these are long amphibians that resemble eels. Mud Snakes are also known to eat salamanders, tadpoles, and fish. While feeding, the Mudsnake has been observed to be a ferocious antagonist when attacking prey such as an amphiuma which can violently defend itself.
Now here's something especially interesting. Mud Snakes are one of the few snakes in the entire world
that actually remains with their eggs throughout incubation.  Some older readers may recall a legendary critter called a "hoop snake". I used to see mention of this from time to time when I was younger. In the Werler and Dixon book, the critter is said to have been able to grab its tail in its mouth, make its body into a hoop, and roll downhill after a victim. When it got close enough, it would then--on the fly--straighten its body into a spear shape and impale the victim with the point on its tail. Within seconds the victim would be a goner. Pretty amazing, eh? Remember, this was all folklore.
Anyway, THIS snake, the Mud Snake, is generally believed to be the "basis" for the "hoop snake". If captured, the Mud Snake will sometimes poke or probe with the point on its tail; and this probing could cause a predator to drop it in surprise. The Mud Snake will sometimes suddenly curl its tail or portions of its body, which shows the brighter  underside. This can also be a method of intimidation.
This flipping over is sometimes accompanied by the tail being raised and curled. Finally, the tail is said to be used to help control prey that the snake has caught.

January 02, 2005 I had some spare time in the VC/NC at Brazos Bend State Park, so I decided to take some pictures of the beautiful juvenile Eastern Hognose snake that is visiting us there.  I got most of the following information from the book: Texas Snakes, by John E. Werler and James R. Dixon. The Eastern Hognose Snake (heterodon platirhinos) is a heavy-bodied snake that  grows from 20 to 33.5 inches. It comes in a wide array of colors. At first glance it may seem to resemble a rattlesnake or a cottonmouth. Unlike these snakes, it is generally considered harmless. It can easily be distinguished from these snakes by its upturned nose and round pupils (the pit vipers have elliptical, or slit pupils). Although it is generally harmless, its unique defensive behavior probably provokes a number of people to kill it out of hand. The Hognose snake prefers terrain with loose soil and ground cover. It likes to burrow, using the upturned snout like a plow to dig. It also prefers moist areas, since its main food is amphibians. These snakes prefer toads, but if frogs are more plentiful, it will eat them. Hognosed snakes have a pair of elongated teeth set back from the front of the upper jaw (Heterodon means "different tooth"). Unlike fangs of venemous snakes, these teeth are thought to be used to hold their slippery amphibian prey. Also, while eating toads, these teeth may also be used to puncture the toads so they can be swallowed. Toad take in air and expand when they are threatened. This can make them seem larger and more menacing, but it also makes them hard to swallow whole. Toads also have poison glands on their skin, and almost any other animal that attempts to eat them will get very sick--and possibly even die--from reactions to the toad's secretions. According to Werler's Book, Hognosed snakes have an enlarged adrenal gland--larger than any other Texas snake--which may have something to do with their resistance to the toad toxins.

Other sources mention that Hognosed snakes also have a secretion in their mouths that is thought to neutralize the effects of toad venom.  All of this sounds pretty harmless, right? It is.
It's the Hognose Snakes defensive show that might cause humans to kill it.  When a Hognose snake is threatened, it will first lie still, like many other animals. If that doesn't work, it may try to crawl away. If these first two ploys don't work, then the show starts. First, the snake can flatten its head and the neck area behind it, so that from above or the front, this area can appear almost 3 times bigger. At the same time, it will take deep breaths which cause its body to expand and contract, and it will also hiss loudly. How do you think a typical homeowner would react to this; especially if there are gardening tools close by? If this acting hasn't driven off an attacker, then the snake begins striking repeatedly. However, these strikes are almost always done WITH THE MOUTH CLOSED, and no contact is made. It's all a bluff!  Can you imagine the snake surviving an encounter with most humans after all of this?  Finally, if its antagonist is still around, and perhaps touches the snake, the snake begins to twist and contort. It acts as if it's been mortally wounded. During this time, the snake will void material from its bowels, and if it's eaten recently, it will regurgitate.  A strong musk is also expelled from glands near the tail. After a while, the snake will stop moving, with its belly up. It will play dead, with mouth slack, and even with its tongue lolling out. The snake will lie there until the antagonist loses interest or leaves. Then, the hognose snake turns back onto its stomach and crawls off.  I took a few pictures of the young "red" Hognose snake, (see CUTE LITTLE ONE and ROUND PUPILS, below) and while I was taking the pictures, the camera flash might have annoyed it.  It widened its head a bit.

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                       CUTE LITTLE ONE                                                        ROUND PUPILS                                                   SLIGHTLY ANNOYED

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                         COOL ARROWHEAD                                                VIDEO CLIP (435KB) 

You can see the slightly widened head. (see SLIGHTLY ANNOYED and COOL ARROWHEAD, above).  With the shades of orange, and the "triangular-shaped" head shown here, I can imagine this snake being mistaken for a copperhead and killed--even though it doesn't really resemble a copperhead. Note the interesting dark band that goes from one "cheek", across the eyes, and down the other cheek.The snake only showed this head display for a few brief intervals.  I finally took a short video clip of the young snake, just to show how it moved.
We also have an adult Hognose snake, and I thought it might be interesting to contrast with the young one. So, the images below show the adult. (see BIGGER HANDFUL, FORKED TONGUE, and WARM PULSE below) Notice the short keel, or ridge just behind the upturned nose. (see NOSE PLOW, below). In the same picture, that band across the eyes is also visible. Also note, as on the young snake, the round pupils. I took a video clip of this snake on my arm as well.

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                           BIGGER HANDFUL                                                   FORKED TONGUE                                              IT LIKES MY WARM PULSE             

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                        THE NOSE PLOW                                                        VIDEO CLIP(336KB)

October 03, 2004 Today's RICKUBISCAM shows water snake that leisurely crossed the trail. I think this is a Green Water Snake (see TRAIL CROSSING, below). 

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                                                                                                         TRAIL CROSSING

I was able to crop a closeup of the head (GREEN WATER SNAKE, below). Some time later, I watched at one of the small ponds as 3 to 5 water snakes foraged. They appeared to be Broadbanded Water Snakes. 

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                      GREEN WATER SNAKE                                          BROADBANDED HUNTING                                           JUST ATE A FROG                   

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                         ANOTHER ONE                                                   AND ANOTHER ONE 

The snakes weren't obvious at first, because they were foraging underwater. From time to time, though, there was turbulance as the small fish would flee, and then sometimes a snake would appear! I watched one move to the bank (see BROADBANDED HUNTING, above); and then rested near a log. As I turned to watch another snake, the first disappeared. But,  it reappeared, chasing a small frog hopping towards the water. It missed that one, and continued into the water. It came back out, chasing more frogs, and caught one. It stopped and rested while it swallowed the frog (see JUST ATE A FROG, above). I watched as more snakes appeared (see ANOTHER ONE, and AND ANOTHER ONE, above). I was able to slowly move closer, and took a few more pictures of this last one (see WAITING FOR PREY, and BEAUTIFUL FACE, below). I believe the Broadbanded Water Snake is one of the prettiest snakes we have. That orange coloration and large dark blotches make it easy to identify. 

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                    WAITING FOR PREY                                                    BEAUTIFUL FACE

On May 17, 2004, I'd taken a day off and had gone to BBSP. The Brazos River was possibly going to flood, due to heavy rainfall north and west. As I was at the park, water from Big Creek and the Brazos River was already starting to backflow into the park. As a result of this, and the rain we'd already gotten, many of the small "islands" that the alligators had been basking on were under water. So, alligators and other animals were actively crossing the trails.

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                          RIBBON SNAKE ON THE BRIDGE                                            THE RIBBON SNAKE'S HEAD 

When I got to the Spillway Bridge, I saw this good-sized Ribbon Snake (see RIBBON ON THE BRIDGE, and SNAKE'S HEAD, above). Because of the exposure, and the distance away, I can't tell exactly which Ribbon Snake it is, though. I tried getting a little closer, but it vanished between two bridge planks.

If you'd like to know more about the park follow these links:

Brazos Bend State Park   The main page.

Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer's Page  The volunteer's main page.
 

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