My former colleague Patrick Lair — talented reporter, Iraq war veteran and all-around good guy, btw — shared something with me a few days ago knowing I have an interest in reptiles:
This week, it turns out, a national snake count is taking place, involving any citizen scientists who want to take part.
Myself, I opted not to participate. Mainly it just seemed a bit more involved than I was willing to deal with at this particular point in time.
But as many of you know, I do love snakes and always have. They just sort of fascinate me.
In the Milwaukie neighborhood where I grew up, there were plenty of snakes for a kid to catch if he were so inclined — and frogs and toads too. And I did a lot of catching, particularly around the creek that ran through Risley Park, and in the weeds around the Willamette River.
My typical pattern was finding a specimen, securing it, giving it a good looking over, keeping it in a coffee can for an hour or two, and then turning it loose. I didn’t want to ruin their lives or anything, just observe them for a while.
To this day, I really can’t resist getting a good look at any snake, lizard, frog, newt or salamander I come across, though snakes and frogs are the only ones I actually handle with any regularity. I don’t see all that many lizards, and newts and salamanders are just kind of, well, wet and sticky — plus newts’ skin secretes a neurotoxin that would really mess you up if you happened to accidentally ingest it.
But I do handle a lot of snakes. I most often see them while mowing and hiking, and unless I don’t have my phone readily available, I always take a photo and actually maintain a “snakes” folder on my desktop. I admit I am not completely sure why I feel compelled to take a photograph of every garter snake I cross paths with, but I apparently do.
Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.