35 Snakes of Devil’s Lake
• All snakes can swim At Devil’s Lake
One can find 11 species of snakes
at Devil’s Lake State Park. They include:
“What do we do if we see a snake?”
“Ewwwww! I won’t see a snake will I?”
“Cool! Where can I go to see a rattlesnake?”
“Do the rangers clear the trails of snakes?”
“Hey Dad, look what I found!” “How many people have
died from snakebites here?”
“Will my children be safe in the campground?”
Many people don’t think about
snakes. They feel about snakes! There are emotional reactions that seem to be almost uncontainable. Common sense, science, knowledge, statistics, history, usefulness… none of that matters when it comes to snakes.
It’s a gut reaction. You like
‘em, or you don’t. Did you know?
• Some snakes give birth to live young, while others lay eggs.
• Without snakes, we might be overrun with rats and mice.
• Snakes feel clean, smooth, and cool to the touch.
• Snakes don’t blink because they don’t have eyelids
• In order to grow, they shed their old skin
• Snakes’ use their tongues to help them smell
• The enzymes in a snakes stomach are almost as acidic as battery acid
• Snakes don’t generate their own body heat, but get it from their surroundings
Timber Rattlesnake In The Park (photo by Gabriel Hesed)
• eastern hognose snake • North American racer • black ratsnake • western fox snake • eastern milk snake • eastern gartersnake • brown snake • northern red-bellied snake • northern water snake • smooth green snake • timber rattlesnake The most commonly spotted are
the eastern gartersnake, northern red-bellied snake, northern watersnake, and western fox snake.
The eastern gartersnake is a black snake with yellow stripes.
typically 16” – 24” long. This snake will eat frogs, minnows, earthworms, mice, and insects.
The svelte red-bellied
snake is not much bigger than a pencil, and is the smallest snake in Wisconsin. It eats slugs, earthworms, and beetle larvae.
Around the edges of
the lake, a visitor is most likely to see the northern water snake. It eats frogs, crayfish, and minnows. The water snake is territorial and will readily defend its space.
Northern Water Snake It can be
mildly aggressive and will typically bite when picked up; it is not poisonous. Nothing clears a section of the beach like a swimming snake!
The western fox snake is a
fairly large snake, three to six feet in length.
It’s a constrictor, suffocating
its prey before eating it. It eats rodents, small rabbits, and eggs. The fox snake is often mistaken for a rattlesnake. Then threatened, the fox snake will shake the end of its tail in dry leaves, mimicking a rattlesnake’s rattle. Its best defense is emitting a vile musky stench when
it is disturbed. The fox snake is not poisonous.
snake that lives in the park: the timber rattlesnake.
There is one species of poisonous If you see one,
consider yourself extremely lucky. Look at it from a distance and enjoy your good fortune. A million-and-a- half people visit the park every year, and only a few will see a rattlesnake. They’re shy and quiet, and will move away if someone approaches. It’s been over 30 years since a person was bitten by a rattlesnake at Devil’s Lake. A dog was bitten by a rattlesnake about 10 years ago. He lived, but his owners had an expensive vet bill. Since 1900, there has been only one death in Wisconsin from a rattlesnake bite. If you see a rattlesnake, you can report it to the naturalist. She’ll be interested to know where and when you saw it. And how do you know it was a rattlesnake? (it has rattles on it’s tail, the head is triangular and significantly larger than the neck).
So. What do you do? If you see a snake, look. Then
wonder, study, examine, ponder, enjoy, imagine. Be amazed. But do not disturb the snake or try to capture it. Your encounter doesn’t have to be scary.
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