Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Well, it's August, which means that my son Nathan and I are deep into our annual head-to-head snake-capturing competition. We do this based on the calendar year, though the first points aren't usually scored until March. (This year, I caught my first snake--a Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer)--on the 2nd of that month.) Each snake caught scores 1 point, regardless of species, but they have to be caught and handled, not just seen.

We do have a couple of special rules, however. Baby rattlesnakes need only be touched, not actually picked up (but all other rattlesnakes must be captured to count). Garter snakes (of all sizes) need only be touched as well. In their case, this rule is due to their propensity to excude a nasty-smelling musk that stays with you for some time. Nathan is rather sensitive to smells, so we could call the garter snake rule the 'Nathan Rule.'

We have two competitions, really. One is total snakes caught for the year, and the other is number of different species caught. The last couple of years, I've won the total individuals category, while Nate's taken the species crown. Oregon doesn't have a wealth of snake species, so his mark of 8 each of the last couple of years has been pretty impressive.

As for this year's contest, we haven't compared notes lately, so I'm not sure how we stand. I've been leading in total snakes most of the season, and I suspect that I'm still ahead by a half dozen or so. My total is currently at 71. All of mine are captured in the course of my daily field work, but Nathan is not above going road-hunting at night just to find snakes and try to keep up with the old man. Should he read this post and discover my total, he's liable to head for a favorite snake road yet tonight.

I'm pretty sure we're tied at the moment in the species count, with the same 7 each. Those would be Gopher Snakes, Racers (Coluber constrictor), Western Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis), Rubber Boas (Charina bottae), Western Terrestrial Garters (Thamnophis elegans), Common Garters (Thamnophis sirtalis), and Night Snakes (Hypsiglena torquata). We've each seen one other species, the swift and elusive Striped Whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), and it could be that catching one of these could decide the species contest.

I trust you'll all be rooting for me... we wouldn't want Nate to get a big head.

Here's a photo he took of a Western Rattlesnake eating an Ord's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii).


Ben Clawson said...

That's some pretty awesome Father/Son bonding! My Dad and I always watch football together, but after reading this post I'm thinking I should challenge him to something more exciting.

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