Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Western Whip Snake found dead in lane

I took some photos of the snake when we discovered it one evening in the lane, but the next morning it had gone. Perhaps another animal had cleaned up the site and ate a feast for supper or breakfast.
It is a Western Whip Snake or Coulevre Vert et Jaune. I had thought it was a Smooth Snake but a 'blogging friend' with a wealth of knowledge about the natural environment has corrected me. She has recommended this website for the facts about these beautiful creatures.
The first Springtime of living in the wilds of Central France I opened our kitchen door to see and hear a HUGE snake scrambling back into the stone wall. It seemed to make a whipping sound. I was quite frightened and dashed to our neighbour Jean-Louis who identified it as a Coulevre, a Grass Snake. He told me not to worry - our cats would be safe! To this day, no one believes me, that it was more or less all one colour (I realise that 'greenish-greyish-yellowish' is not a clever description) and well over a metre long being as fat as a large orange. It seems that he was correct and possibly I might have exaggerated its fatness in that flash of a second, in fear and surprise but I know what I saw and heard was an unusual sighting even if they are common in France.
I know that not all snakes are poisonous but recognise that caution is completely necessary, yet, having only ever seen a few live snakes in the wild, I would hate to injure one.
One time, there was a viper basking in the sunshine on the grass on the side of a dyke in Suffolk. Passers-by told me to swish a stick in the long grass in front of me as I walked. On another occasion my friend's dog attacked a viper and was killed. She was naturally devastated because she could not get her Jack Russell to receive the antidote in time. Life went downhill for her after that. It was such a terrible tragedy. On another occasion, I held a snake at a wild-life park - the fashion was not to call it a zoo! As a teacher I tried to demonstrate to some afeared children that some snakes were a safe risk to hold if the zookeeper was giving permission and the snake had been well fed before our introduction. It was also about me setting aside my fear of snakes and trying to help the children face their own fears. I think it was a boa constrictor as it was very heavy when the animal keeper wrapped it across my shoulders. I like holding frogs and toads with their cold, smooth skin but the lively Western Whip Snake or Coulevre can stay in the long grasses and damp stone walls of France.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Sorry, not a Smooth Snake, but a Western Whip Snake (Couleuvre verte et jaune) the commonest snake in our area. They get very long, but for practical purposes, are non-venomous.

See for a really good French amphibs and reptile site. You will see your snake is almost identical to the one on this site, although they are very variable in appearance.