Why is this snake all crinkly?

This guy was in our backyard yesterday. Actually, my wife says he’s out there a lot. It is a considerable understatement to say that she spends a lot more time outdoors than I do, so she would know.

Of course, he might be a she. I have zero idea on that. Fortunately, it’s the official style of this blog to use the inclusive “he” for reptiles. I’m still allowed to do that, right? I don’t want to tick off any feminist snakes or anything.

Beyond that, I’m pretty sure he’s harmless. Sure enough not to kill him, anyway. Of course, how reliable is the opinion of someone who can’t tell the difference between male and female?

If y’all know what it is, tell me. In advance, though, I’m not going to trust the expertise of any of y’all who told me that copperhead was nonvenomous awhile back.

Actually, I might do what I did then, and send it to Rudy Mancke. But not so much to ask him the species. What I want to ask him is, Why is this snake all crinkly? I mean, why is his body all compressed in a sort of sawtooth pattern? Kind of weird-looking. Is he just tense because I’m standing next to him (although he looked like this from a distance)? Is he about to shed his skin or something? Is this some variation on coiling — is he contemplating springing forward dramatically? Or does he not feel well?

I dunno. I dunno much about Nature, as I said in my second post about the copperhead. I really need to learn more. We all do…

4 thoughts on “Why is this snake all crinkly?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    And now, we have the answers! I just heard back from Rudy Mancke, who told me:

    Brad, That is an Eastern Rat Snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis), formally known as a Black Rat Snake. When surprised in the open, rat snakes wrinkle their bodies, as you saw. That is typical behavior. Perhaps it is the “fight-or-flight” response. Tensing the body to protect itself from harm. Rudy Mancke

    Thanks, Rudy!

    Rudy is a treasure! When you’re as ignorant about the world around you as I am, it’s good to know that you know somebody who will know. You know?

  2. Scout

    Dang! I should have checked back in sooner with the blog. I don’t know why I got out of the habit. But here I am again. And I knew this answer! I saw one in my yard doing this very thing and googled it alot and found the answer awhile back. And then he ate my baby bluebirds and made me very sad. But I get it. He needs to eat too. So now I have a snake guard on my bluebird box.

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