Disclaimer: This article is not for the feint of heart. I was a little grossed out myself.
It starts off pleasantly enough. The new English Setter doggie “Elliot” is working out quite nicely. We were walking around the lot after dinner and I saw the unmistakable Setter stance. This dog is a little shy and as dogs go, he just failed Setters 101. Setters usually dive in first and think later, often after something is either in their grasp or they are bitten.
Well, Elliot is a dog who apparently is going to listen. When I saw his intrigue and the approach and retreat of a timid dog, I called him away and he listen. But he ran to me and ran back to the original spot and ran back to me again. It’s that Lassie “Timmy’s in the well” thing that dogs do.
I approached and saw the tail end of one of the more beautiful snakes of Florida an Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis). Some, as this one did, have a coloration that gives them a common name of “Florida Blue”…not to be confused with the Blue Stripe Garter Snake of Florida’s gulf coast.
I snapped a picture or two and then I took Elliot and his friend Melo (a long term visiting dog) to the house and they went inside. I don’t like the dogs to disturb the wildlife and despite having half an acre where the dogs don’t have access, the wildlife still wants to venture into the dogs’ domain, occasionally with dire consequences.
I went back and the snake was still in the same position. I needed to send it on its way since I wanted to let the one of my other Setters: “Great Reptile Hunter” out before it got dark. I touch it gently with my foot and it didn’t move.
Alarmed, I looked around for a stick to move it out where I could see what the problem was. I placed the stick about midway the length of the 2.5-ft snake and gently eased the head out. At first I thought it was DEAD as it looked like head had been chopped off, with goo coming out. Then the tail swished and I saw what the tie-up was.
The snake looked like it had no head because its mouth was stuffed with one of the largest Cuban Treefrogs (CTF) I have ever seen. CTFs are a major invasive species in Florida and can be anywhere from 1.5 to 3 in. with a maximum size of 5.5 inches. This one looked pretty massive. CTFs don’t have many natural enemies in Florida, thus the reason they are so invasive. This encounter is encouraging in that perhaps the local fauna is finally going to consume this problematic international cuisine.
As I stood stunned I began to snap some photos and (this is the gross part), he suddenly started regurgitating the frog. OH YUCK. Gag me with a spoon.
And yet, I couldn’t turn away…it’s like watching an accident…you know you shouldn’t look, but you just can’t help yourself.
These garter snakes have an average size of 20-28 inches, but can be as long as 4-foot. They eat frogs (obviously), toads, lizards, fish, salamanders and earthworms. They are food for birds of prey and some mammals. You can encourage garter snakes to come and visit by providing habitat for them, in the form of woodpiles or leaving some taller grasses to provide adequate hiding spots.
It appeared that the snake wasn’t going to be moving anytime soon so I opted to walk each dog individually on a lead to give fatso a chance to digest his meal. In between each dog switch I went back to check the status and the snake seemed to just be lying there.
I finished up with the dogs and had my dinner and when it was time for the last trip out of the night, I took one of the dogs and a flashlight over to the area to see if the snake was still there. Well, snaky was gone, but he left that gross frog.
I headed back out with a plastic bag to clean up the mess. If the garter snakes don’t like their food I do wish they would at least hide it in a napkin like I did with peas when I was a kid.
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