Today, the first completely sunny comparatively warm day, my husband rode his bike through Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach Florida, while I walked the exercise course several times. I’d made a recent resolution to be attentive to my surroundings (actually I’ve made numerous such resolutions, this being the most recent) so as I traversed the park I focused on the cedar trail itself. Doesn’t sound very interesting does it? As I normally look everywhere but down while walking, looking down is a novel experience. An exercise my husband advises me to do each time I trip on a rock or branch.
Composed of cedar chips, the exercise course offers a huge variety of cedar chip shapes and sizes as well as the cones and needles that fall from surrounding pines. If these pose obstacles to walkers, I pick them up and toss them onto the side of the path. Encountering a beautifully shaped twig of some sort, I bent to pick it up to examine before tossing (maybe it would be something to collect) I noticed square markings down its length. As it was less than a foot long, I didn’t think snake. But snake it was, making me very glad I was exercising attentiveness. I squatted down to observe it more carefully as it lay without moving on the cedars, determined to look up Florida snakes on the internet to determine its identity. The Florida Museum of Natural History offers an excellent guide to identifying snakes. A check the box kind of aid: “Is the snake banded?” “Is the snake blotched?” “Is the snake cross banded?” “Are its colors uniform?” and so on.
I learned my snake was a common brown water snake that fully grown averages between 25-60 inches. The snake I saw was less than a foot long, the size of a newborn which runs from 7-11 inches long with hatching season from June to October, but this is February. Then I read that though harmless, it is often killed because it resembles a Copperhead . . .?????