Daryl Prowls

A Tale of Two Trash Snakes Part 4

Read: A Tale of Two Trash Snakes Part 3

The day Carol showed up, we checked under the truck bed liner to find Daryl still coiled in a hunting posture under its downhill edge. “There are two lepidus in the yard…” we would say to one another periodically, a verbal pinch to make sure we weren’t dreaming.

Martha, female Ornate Box Turtle, hiding in the vegetation.

The next morning, Daryl had moved on from the truck bed liner, CLOSER to the house! I discovered him by ear – jarred by a blast from his tail as I peered under some vines to see if our neighborhood Ornate Box Turtle, Martha, was still nestled down in the leaf litter. He was just a couple of meters away, and tough to see as he retreated further into cover.

With the summer rains in full swing, the moist soil has pushed up its fleeting patchwork of forbs and grasses, providing cover to these little snakes who’d otherwise stick out on bare pine duff. Under this layer of green, Daryl moved about inconspicuously; again and again, as we tried to surveil him, we would lose him and then, often serendipitously, find him again which for us would provide a bottomless well of frustration as we tried, from a distance, to keep tabs on him.

Daryl, male Rock Rattlesnake, coiled by our door

After this initial encounter in Martha’s vines, I lost Daryl. My eyes probed the undergrowth with binoculars, but he is a master of concealment. That is, until I gave up and headed back into the house, where I spotted him along a door!

He again gave a little buzz to remind me he’s not to be trifled with. I alerted Melissa so we could get photos, and we watched him begin to inspect some of the very places we had watched Carol move through on her search for the whiptail the previous day.

As Carol hunted on the other side of the garage, Daryl now seemed focused on tracking her down. You could tell when he caught a trace of her scent, as he halted to inspect certain spots with interest. When he moved along at a steady pace, tongue flicking, he seemed to have lost the trail, and would search widely. Apart from perhaps keying into Carol’s proximity, Daryl made little progress towards her, ending the day near where he began (under the Gartersnake’s concrete stone – maybe HE killed that chipmunk and the Gartersnake found it first!).

Daryl, male Rock Rattlesnake, hiding in the vegetation

The next day he retraced his path, further searching around our entryway for a trace of Carol. He spent much of the daylight hours in this pursuit, although from time to time, he would coil inside thick vegetation and rest, perhaps to cool off or maybe to shake his audience – it was effective for both. It did get hot, though, and Daryl eventually returned to where he started the day, no closer to Carol for the day’s efforts. An afternoon thunderstorm rolled through and dumped quite a bit of rain, after which Daryl disappeared. Carol, meanwhile (who had just eaten a tree lizard), just hunkered down beneath the water tank.

*From Daryl’s movement along Carol’s trails, we are fairly certain that he is searching for her as a potential mate. It’s interesting, however, that he spent two day’s hunting without moving, and is only now interested in tracking her down. Did they both arrive here independently of one another, and only now has Daryl noticed her presence? With the species’ apparent scarcity in this area, the independent arrival hypothesis seems implausible; maybe he just wanted to give her a head-start…

Read: A Tale of Two Trash Snakes Part 5