Once the kids finished up school this afternoon, Andrew decided to go for a stroll out and about. He headed over to the woods next to our house and the neighbors, an old favorite spot. Walking through the leaves he came upon- a huge snake. He almost stepped on it actually. It coiled up and hissed at him and tried to strike. Not knowing if it was poisonous or not, he promptly grabbed a rock and dropped it on its head. After he stunned it he grabbed a long branch and brought it back to our yard to finish it off. (He even stopped to take a photo!)
I came out to see him carrying this awful looking creature up the driveway while the little ones were shouting Snake! snake! Snake!- sounding eerily like Froggy in Lord of the Flies. Thankfully there was a shovel nearby and the rest of the job was done easily. It was a big snake. And since we've seen a ginormous rattlesnake right on the driveway a few years ago, and several copperheads each summer, I think he did well to not take any chances.
I suppose at this point I should've just let him bury the thing and be done with it. But, I do HOMESCHOOL my kids, and this was a unique situation I could use to my advantage- so I shamelessly did. First I asked them all if they thought it was poisonous and how they might tell that. Peter was quick to point out "the pupils of the eyes are too round." (I had no idea you could tell that way- but of course I answered 'very good Peter- and googled it later on). They all thought head shape was important (check-knew that one) and this creature had a diamond shape head for certain. Colorings were dark, but patterned which had us all scratching our heads. It had no rattle so it couldn't be a rattlesnake. Certainly copperhead could be ruled out by the color, and even the common black snake. We decided against examining the mouth as it still could have poison. I then asked the younger kids what kind of animal it was. Silence. Is it an amphibian I started. "NO" they answered in chorus, Michael giggling as if surprised I could even ask that question! Joe said its a reptile. How do you know that? "Its got scales Mom". OK. Is it a verterbrate or inverterbrate. (This is tricky cause you wouldn't know it by looking). Tom answered correctly "Its a vertebrate cause it has a backbone!"
Finally I let all the kids touch it. This wound up being particularly cool since it had lost its head but was still slithering a bit and bleeding out its neck. Peter explained to the others it would take a while for the nerves to die off.
Afterwards Andrew looked up some classifications and found it was a rat snake. This species tends to be the largest around this area. None of us were surprised with that news, as this one was really long and scary. Still it appeared from our reading this was not even fully mature yet.(cue skin crawling).
So while we had the heebie jeebies for the rest of the afternoon, it was a valuable lesson. One I hope none of you have to learn anytime soon.