While I was away this week, my husband saw an unusual snake. It was on our driveway, then fled toward the front of the house. (Well, it fled because he was chasing it with a pitchfork, but honestly, he was just trying to keep it out of the garage, not hurt it, and the pitchfork was closest to hand.)
It was a 6-foot-long pale snake with black blotches nearest its head, lightening to brown blotches toward the tail.
Yes, of course he got pictures! (That was my first question too.)
When he looked it up later, it proved to be the Northern Pine Snake, a completely harmless snake whose numbers are diminishing. Apparently it's already disappeared from a couple of northern states. It's a burrowing snake that preys primarily on the gopher rat, and as those are becoming rarer due to disturbed habitats, so are the pine snakes.
Isn't it beautiful? It was calm, and didn't hiss (despite the pitchfork). In the picture below, note that its tail extends beyond the black rubber rain spout extender. This was one long snake.
Below you can see the black splotches close to the head and the brown ones closer to the tail.
A Wikipedia article said that the pine snake can use a defensive technique known politely as 'cloacal popping' or 'defensive farting.' It said the snake 'pops' its cloaca and expels air and 'whatever else might be in the cloaca'.
I asked my husband if it had popped its cloaca at him, and he said not that he was able to tell.
Then I later read that it's actually only a couple of southwestern snakes that use this awesome defensive technique, and in fact the Wikipedia pine snake article's reference on the subject is to an article on these other snakes, so it looks like it was a mistake.
My husband said I shouldn't include it in this blog in that case, but come on? Defensive farting? What are the odds that I wasn't going to mention it?