Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/505

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HABITS OF THE GARTER SNAKE.

esteem small snakes a particular delicacy. After such a dinner as the above, the snake seeks some safe retreat and there lapses into a more or less quiescent state for about a week, at the end of which time it is ready to add another victim to its list. Frogs are not, however, the only food of the garter snakes; they will also feed upon newts or toads, they are very partial to earthworms, and in rare instances will resort to cannibalism. They never feed upon insects, and as far as my observation goes will not attack birds or mice. There is a great difference between the arrangement of the teeth in harmless and venomous snakes. The harmless garter snake, for example, possesses four rows of little needlelike teeth upon its upper jaw. All these teeth are of about the same size, and are pointed backward. A bite from such a snake would leave an impression similar to that shown in A, Fig. 3, where the dots represent the perforations made by the teeth. Venomous snakes, on the other hand, possess much fewer teeth, and in the outer rows we find several large fangs. An impression from a snake of this sort is shown in Fig. 3, B. Several times during the summer the garter snake molts. Almost a week before this takes place, the horny layer of the old epidermis begins to separate from the underlying skin. This separation is caused by numerous little hairlike structures, called lifting hairs, which develop uniformly all over the underlying epidermis and push the old skin away from it, so that it hangs loosely all over the body. The snake becomes torpid and irritable. The eyes lose their luster and become milky in appearance, for the cuticula overPSM V42 D505 Forms of snake bites.jpgFig. 3.—Forms of Snake-bites. the eyes is shed also. Finally, the skin breaks around the lips and the serpent proceeds to cast it off, which it usually accomplishes in about an hour by writhing slowly through the grass, so that the whole skin is turned inside out, and pulled off backward like the finger of a glove.

The mating season of the garter snake comes about the middle of April, very soon after it awakens from the winter's hibernation. The males possess the mysterious power of tracking the females through the grass, and will follow after all the sinuosities of their paths with the greatest certainty. At this season both sexes emit a very rank and disgusting odor, especially when irritated.

During the months of June and July the females may be observed basking themselves in the hottest sun. They are very easily angered at this time, and generally make a bold front, snapping viciously at the intruder. They refuse to eat in cap-