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This morning I spent about 1/2 hour watching with interest as a tiny Black-necked Garter Snake pursued prey in a small pool at Sabino Canyon. The creek bed remains dry, two weeks into our monsoon rains, and what little water there is consists of a few small pools just below the dam. Large numbers of tiny fish are concentrated in these pools: they are trapped there until the creek begins to flow again.
The pools have become major hunting grounds for Black-necked Garter Snakes. These little snakes (a big one might reach a length of two feet) are simply superb swimmers. They race through the water with surprising speed and they actively pursue the little fish, apparently with great success. These snakes are totally harmless to people. They are not venomous and they are quite shy. This one seemed unaware of my presence. In the past, however, whenever I’ve come across these snakes their immediate reaction is to hide, usually by crawling beneath the nearest rock. After a while, this snake either had eaten its fill or needed a break, because it climbed out of the water and rested on a rock.
Black-necked Garter Snakes get their names from the dark blotches at the bases of their heads. This little snake was, perhaps, 10 inches long. The bigger ones (relatively speaking) tend to be somewhat darker in color.
They are not exclusively aquatic snakes. I’ve seen Black-necked Garter Snakes out in the desert hundreds of yards from Sabino Creek. A few days ago I came across a big one — a two footer! — lying under a cactus out in the desert. The snake had a very obvious bulge in its midsection, more or less precisely the size of a mouse or perhaps, a lizard.
Picture taken with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 200, f8 @ 1/160.