Most people we meet are horrified when we tell them we own snakes: "IN YOUR HOUSE?" "DON'T YOU HAVE A CHILD??!!"
It always makes me laugh.
Some of our snakes have been with us for well over a decade, and if we are lucky, we will have them for several more.
They have been an indispensable source of education for countless people, especially children. They have traveled all over Tennessee visiting libraries, schools, festivals other educational events.
So without further ado, meet our snakes!
We'll begin with the smallest and work our way up....
First up is Obsidian.
Native to southern Arizona and Northern Mexico, these beautiful kingsnakes only average 3-4 feet long. They are completely black, though they occasionally have white markings under their chin.
My favorite feature of these beauties, is their glassy, bluish underbelly.
Obsidian is our feistiest snake, and can be a booger to get out of his cage, especially when he's hungry. Mark and I have both been bitten by him a couple of times, but it was only because he thought our fingers were his dinner (he is always ready to eat!).
|Kingsnakes always seem to have an angry expression|
He has only bitten one other person, and that was a teacher at a school program this Spring. Oddly enough, he wasn't being defensive, he was actually trying to eat her. Weird.
Otherwise, he's a great little snake, and is usually the kids' favorite, for some reason.
Next we have Maizie the Cornsnake.
We also bought Maizie at Petco, as she was on clearance. Maybe 6 or 7 years ago?
They are native to the Southeast, and their color deepens the further south you travel.
You can occasionally find them in southern portions of TN. For that reason they are actually native, so in our state it is technically illegal to own them.
Maizie has always been a picky eater, sometimes going months without accepting food. For that reason, she has hardly grown during all the years we've had her.
At first I was convinced it was female, hence the name, Maizie. Then I began to lean more towards a male, and we changed the name to Maize. Then, she cleared up all the confusion by laying eggs out of the blue one day. Yep! She's Maizie again!
Then there is Maya, also a Cornsnake.
|Maya as a headdress, and Maizie trying to get inside my shirt, as always.|
Maya was actually named by a child in one of the first snake programs I brought her to.
|Back when she was still a little thing (...and , er - me too)|
She's a decent size, but would probably be larger if she would quit laying eggs every other year.
Our third Cornsnake is Mandarin.
I'm not 100% confident that he is actually male, since we've never had him sexed at the vet. But he's never laid eggs, and has more pairs of scales underneath his tail (one of the ways you can tell gender on cornsnakes).
He actually came to us from my cousin, who needed to find another home for him.
|He was getting ready to shed in this picture, so he wasn't as vibrant as usual|
Mandarin is a little more nervous than the others, but his color is always a show-stopper.
Then there is Pearl, the albino California Kingsnake.
Our last two snakes fall into the exotic category, but are also very fun to use in presentations.
This is Mekala, the Ball Python.
|Helping me study|
She is the gentlest snake I have ever encountered.
By now, she has been held, petted, poked, squeezed, stepped on (EEK!!) and pinched by thousands of kids.
I even took her to the fair once where she rode the Ferris wheel.
She rode along for trips to Wal-mart, shoe stores and just about everywhere else.
Sometimes I took her to class with me when I was in college. A couple of times she gave herself away by stretching her head out and causing my purse expand or flop over. It would always get me perplexed glances from people, but I never got in trouble for it, especially when I would take her out to show everybody once class was over.
My mom would always tell me, "One day somebody is going to open your purse, have a heart attack and sue you!" I would always respond, "Nobody should be looking into my purse, anyway!!" I considered her the ultimate anti-theft device.
Before I made a habit of killing her rats for her, she got bitten behind her head by one. It went deep and was obviously pretty painful by her reaction. I ended up taking her to the vet and having to give her injectable antibiotics for a week, to help prevent infection. I remember the vet telling me that they didn't have a lot of nerve endings in their skin, and she would barely flinch when I gave her the shot. However, I did not find that to be the case. She HATED those shots.
She has helped countless people overcome their fear of snakes, and anytime somebody holds her for any length of time, they find themselves swaying her like a little baby! She just seems to have that effect, for some reason.
|My niece, Mira, is one of Mekala's all-time biggest fans (she is 11, now)|
I love wearing her around like an accessory. It's hilarious how often people don't even notice her, since she is so still. Most people just assume I'm wearing a scarf. Until she flicks her tongue.
Lastly, there is Cortez, the Boa Constrictor.
He was given to us 5 years ago by a family that was camping. Like many large snakes, they bought him when he was little and then got scared when he started to grow big.
He was about 5 feet long when we first got him.
That's pretty big, but female boas can double that. As a male, he won't get too much larger than he is now. But that's still a lot of snake!
He's as big a snake as I ever want to have, and even one his size can be dangerous if mishandled.
Luckily he's never shown aggression, but he is very active, which can make handling him a challenge.
Boa Constrictors can be found all of the way from Mexico to South America, and can adapt to a wide range of climates. That makes him an easy keeper.
|I love how his pattern continues through his eye.|
So there you have it!
By now, you either think I'm really cool or certifiably insane.
Or, if you're like some people I know, you couldn't even scroll down as soon as you saw the word snakes in the title.
I have so much admiration for these creatures, and find them so unique and beautiful and mystifying.
I only wish I could help everybody else see them in that light.