Sunday, May 22, 2016

Graduation day! Here's your snake!

Well, the kitties are definitely grown up. They're a year old now, and have become the little murder-machines they are destined by genetics to be.

For some time now, whenever the sun has shone (which hasn't been very much in the last few weeks) either Henry or Bertie have brought me dead lizards. And quite often, live ones.

These are just the little stripy green grass lizards. The other day I caught them both tormenting one of the larger all-green lizards. I tried to rescue it but it nipped me in the thumb and took off into the grass and was caught again. I had groceries to bring in so I left it to its fate.

But yesterday was the real graduation day. I was digging in the garden, all attention focused on getting up the patch of weeds, and I look up just in time to see Henry, with Pippin close on his heels, bounding up towards me through the grass with a fair sized snake in his mouth.

Henry and Pippin were obviously delighted... "Mummy! Mummy! Look at this neat rope we found!"

"Henry, put the rope down!! Put it down!"

I figure it was about 18 inches long and maybe as thick as my thumb. It was writhing in his mouth and as he dropped it for me to admire, it gave a few feeble feints as though to say it wasn't out of the reckoning yet.

After I had shooed them away, I looked at it a little closer - not too close! - and I figure at least it wasn't a viper. They have a very recognisable pattern of markings and the give-away triangle-shaped head. I wasn't going to take any chances, though, and used the broom to sweep it onto the spade of the long handled shovel, and carried it at arm's length and dropped it over the chainlink fence where I knew Henry wouldn't be able to get at it.

He looked quite indignant at all this, and bounded instantly off to the bushes on the other side of the road, presumably to go find another one.

And no, I didn't get pics. I was more worried about not getting bitten and that Henry and Pippin hadn't been already.

This morning, as I was heading off to Mass, I opened the door, and in dashed Pippy with something big in his mouth. I chased after him... "What have you got? Give it to me... come on... drop it..."

It was a shrew. Lovely velvety brown fur and long nose with perfect tiny little paws... quite dead.

Man, were they ever cute...

The kitties spend all their days now bounding around the countryside chasing anything that is willing to run away from them. It has worried me, but mostly that they'll be so intent on catching whatever it is that they'll run out onto the road at the wrong moment. I've covered the garden gate - that Pippin especially was in the habit of just dashing through without looking - and will be putting up some of that bamboo stuff onto the carport gate when I get home this afternoon.

But as for deadly fauna, I have done a little research and found out that there are only 15 species of snake in Italy and only four of these are poisonous. And even vipers for the most part aren't all that poisonous. This isn't Australia or South East Asia. If a healthy adult human gets a bite from a viper, he's not going to drop dead. He can just calmly get himself to the nearest proto soccorso, and get a shot of the anti-venom and he'll be fine. And I think the vipers don't really like the cool climate of the mountains.

That being said, there are some pretty big snakes around here.

I saw one of these the other day. At least, I think it was one.

Coming home from the garden centre, I decided to stop and investigate one of the old ruined stone houses that dot the landscape. There was a nice clear gravel path, only occasionally sprouting nettles. The old house was surrounded on three sides by a neck-high impenetrable moat of stinging nettles, so I followed the path around to the fourth side where there was more grass covering the fallen stones and tiles. I was just about to put my foot down on one sunny spot, an it took off right from the spot my foot was about to go. I must say, I jumped a foot, and yelped.

I caught a glimpse of it, and it was about the thickness of my two thumbs together, and was black with white speckles. So I figure it was one of these.

Hierophis viridiflavus 

Mostly harmless. Mostly. 


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