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10 July 2005

Maine's Reptiles: Beware the Innocent Alaskan Dog Hiker

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Today we went on a 2.4 mile hike in the Robinson Woods Preserve in Cape Elizabeth, another magical old growth forest that seems to be typical of Maine. On the way back, Seamus, herpetologist extraordinaire, spotted an unsuspecting snake, who, as snakes often do, was laying in the low brush. Dog and snake briefly met snout to snout. The little snake, at this point unidentified by me, coiled into a tight little ball and opened the tiny but nevertheless toothy mouth to strike. Seamus retreated, and we watched the snake's forked tongue taste the air. I first though it was a garter snake, but on closer inspection, the stripe pattern looked different. After M was done screaming to "step away from the snake," we moved on unharmed, and at home I googled Maine's reptiles and I.D.ed the little fellow as a specimen of Eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus ). It is a species of concern in Maine and eats mainly frogs and salamanders. It must be sucessful because we didn't see a single frog on the hike, unlike last week in the White Mountains where frogs were abundant.

Stay tuned for more mountain news when we hit the woods again.

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