Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Small But Slightly Worrying Snake

There's a snake on the path to my apartment. It's quite small (the pictures make it look bigger than it is, but I didn't want to put anything next to it for scale and have it risk biting me). It hasn't moved in a while, so it's possible it's dead (again, I took the "better safe than sorry" approach and didn't poke it with anything). It's a beautiful chocolate brown with a blackish or olive-ish underside. It has a very small head--thinner than its body, with a pebble-like pattern. The scales are smooth and shiny. The snake is quite fat for its size, which might mean that it's a hatchling that hasn't reached its full length yet.

I'm pretty sure it's not a mamba because I've seen one before in Sierra Leone. It was during the clearing time, when the farmers burn their fields before replanting in advance of the rainy season, and it must have slithered out from a controlled burn. The boys and the caretaker at the house killed it with rocks and then burned it. They told me that it was very dangerous, but I thought they were joking with me because it was a friendly green color and didn't display the normal venomous snake qualities I have been trained over years of hiking (and merely living in rural Southern California) to identify in North American rattlesnakes: triangular head, rattles, dull and prominent scales, beautiful skin patterns, etc. I didn't know it was a green mamba until later, when I read about mambas and remembered this one's black mouth, a telltale sign. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't know it was a mamba until after I'd left.

Online resources aren't very helpful, but I'm pretty sure this snake not a viper/adder (they have many of the same characteristics as rattlesnakes and have that same don't-mess-with-me nasty look around the eyes). And probably not a cobra. But I read that you should avoid brown snakes in Africa. So I'm not going anywhere near it and will continue hoping that it will not slip under the door, as a gopher snake once did back in California.

And if you happen to know what kind of snake it is, please let me know.

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