Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/506

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.


tivity for about a month before the birth of the young, which usually occurs during the latter half of August. The young snakes are born alive, or rather break through their egg membranes immediately upon being born. The number of young produced by a single full-grown snake is usually about fifty, although, according to the observations of Mr. C. Tew Seiss, it may vary from thirteen to eighty. To give an idea of the enormous dangers which threaten the lives of the little snakes, it isPSM V42 D506 One day old garter snake.jpgFig. 4.-Young Garter Snake, One Day Old.
Natural size.
easily calculated that if the garter snake arrive at maturity at the end of three years, and then produces an average of forty young at a birth, a single pair of mature snakes will have become the progenitors of over one hundred and seventy thousand at the end of the eighth year.

The young serpents are usually about five and a half inches long; they are lively, active little fellows, colored very much like their parents, and have large, bright eyes, which give them a staring, surprised look, for snakes have no eyelids and can, therefore, never vary their expression. At the end of two or three days they grow hungry enough to eat, and will pounce upon and devour earthworms with much avidity. Very amusing indeed is it when two little snakes seize upon opposite ends of the same worm, for the fight only ends when one of the serpents attempts to swallow his brother, worm and all. Earthworms, however, can not be their only food, for the garter snake is exceedingly abundant where earthworms are very rare, as in the Canada woods. I have never observed the mother snake guard her progeny, and believe that the little ones scatter immediately to seek their fortunes.

Early in October the garter snakes huddle together in convenient crevices where they hibernate for the winter. As the food of the garter snake consists very largely of frogs and toads, it is probably an enemy to the agriculturist. If we examine carefully the leaves of our trees in late August it will be found that a perfect leaf is indeed rare; very few have escaped the ravages of numerous insect enemies. In this fact we find but another example of the great law of interdependence of organisms. The greatest enemies of the leaves are the insects; frogs and toads depend upon insects for their food, and snakes, in their turn, feed upon frogs and toads. So that we see that the more snakes the more insects, and the fewer perfect leaves will we find in late summer.