If we’re keeping score, it’s the Northern Water Snake: 10, me: 0.
I would say we were evenly matched when we began battle over the pond habitat. (See “Where Have All My Frogs Gone? ) He had no fear of me and I had no fear of him. I only wanted to relocated him to a nearby snake Shangri-La but he knows very well that this little pond is nirvana, not for the fish and frogs, mind you, but for this chubby snake that grows wiser by the day.
I allowed the pond to evaporate about a foot. This exposed the fieldstones arranged at water’s edge, his favorite hideaway. He could not slither in and out of the water without being discovered. I was sure I could hide the minnow net beneath the surface of the water and swoop him up when he picked his favorite escape into the depths of the pond. Nix the minnow net. He seemed to ignore it when it arrived on scene but after several failed attempts to steer him into a watery trap, he quickly learned to turn tail and hide beneath the cotoneaster if I brought out the net.
At one point, I did not see him for several days. “Yes,” I thought. “I rolled up the welcome mat and he’s taken the hint.” But no, he is still here and watching me now from the shadowy vegetation. And I can only watch him from the window where I took the photo above with a telephoto lens. He’s wise to me. If I crack a door slowly, he’s gone.
I still sit by the near empty pond to enjoy the fish and insects. Occasionally, across the pond, the cotoneaster branches convulse as if a wild boar is careening beneath. I know who it is and I think he’s probably caught a hapless creature in that charge.
My next move should be to trim overhanging branches, sedges, and begin to remove the fieldstone, then I should remove his food supply, the few fish, but at this point I’m beginning to have nightmares that he may grab my foot and swallow me. Can a snake grow more intelligent? I know he’s outsmarted me.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester