Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Photo of reader with snake

The bite was mostly painless...

April 2010

Readers Write

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Bird Guides "Awesome"

Awesome!!! We received the Birding and Nature Trail Guides yesterday and can't put them down (see "Road map to the right place at the right time," December 2009). So much great information on places we have been and others we now plan to visit. We love birds and are always looking for new places. Our feeders are out all year long with many "regulars" and just as many migrants in spring and fall.

Jerry and Diana Vieth

WNR magazine replies...

Stacy Rowe, who handles orders for the Birding and Nature Trail Guides, reports that orders are coming in at a brisk pace. If you'd like a copy of one or more of the five guides, e-mail Stacy Rowe.

A Snakey Encounter

Jim, Curt, and I were splitting wood at our cabin in Richland County and found this beautiful specimen under a pile of blocks. Jim, a retired Earth Science teacher, is an old hand with snakes. We untangled it from the wood chunks and tied it up in a T-shirt for a trip to the cabin and the camera.

During the photo shoot, the snake gradually warmed up and became more active. Jim transferred it tome so he could take pictures. By this time, the snake had had about enough and made its displeasure known. The trouble was my hand was such a large morsel that it had to unhinge its jaws for the strike and then could not let go. The bite was mostly painless, about like being rubbed with coarse sandpaper. The teeth were so short they barely penetrated my skin.

After a bit of verbal sparring (mainly by me!), Jim became concerned for the snake, released its jaws, tucked it back in the T-shirt and returned it to the wood pile. We thought at first it was a bull snake and would report the sighting, but since decided it was likely a rat snake. My three-year-old grandson, Aiden, however had another suggestion regarding Mr. Snake's identity. He studied the photo and decided it was a "silly snake" because "Papa is too big for the silly snake to eat!" he observed. The photo went to show-and-tell at day care where it was a big hit.

We share the opinion that in the 25 years since we'd had the cabin snake populations are declining. Sightings are now rare compared to 10 years ago. Our neighbor, a retired biologist, said he had seen a skirmish line of turkey poults going through his yard when one grabbed a small garter snake. There was a general melee to allocate shares of the morsel, and there are lots of hungry turkeys and raccoons around these days. I would venture that predation as well as habitat loss play a role in the decline of snake populations.

Chuck Baum

WNR magazine replies...

DNR herpetologist Rori Paloski responds: This is a black rat snake. They are quite rare and are listed as a Species of Special Concern in Wisconsin, so you are lucky to have seen one! We passed on this information to our data mappers and added this record to our Natural Heritage Inventory (rare species) database. Thanks for this report.

Earth Day Turns 40

April 22, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and in the past four decades this annual day of action has evolved into a week of individual, community and government events. Earth Day began when the late U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Clear Lake, Wis. created the environmental "teach-in" after watching the nationís campuses erupt with student Vietnam War protests.

Suddenly, the idea occurred to me – why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?" Nelson recalled. He called it a gamble worth trying. It worked.

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 attracted about 20 million people. It led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and spurred passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts. Sen. Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role as Earth Day founder.

Today, April 22 means something different to everyone. Be a part of this history and a part of Earth Day. Want to inspire another generation to take on the green mission? Pick up a copy of Gaylord Nelson: Champion for Our Earth, a new book in the Wisconsin Historical Society Press' Badger Biographies series penned by Sheila Terman Cohen. The 109-page book especially appeals to young readers age 7-12 but offers lessons for all age groups. Cost is $12.95.

Restored Badger #2 Fish Car Back Home at Railway Museum

After 13 months and nearly $1 million in renovations, the century old railway car, once used to ship fish and fry between Wisconsin's fish hatcheries and remote streams across the state, returned in mid-December to its home at the Mid- Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom. The fish car (featured in our story Across the trestles of time December 2006), was purchased by the museum in 1960 and had seen several small renovations until 2006 when a $475,000 donation from the Janesville-based Jeffris Family Foundation, matched by museum donors and proceeds from the annual Gandy Dancer Festival, made complete restoration possible. The car was shipped to Avalon Rail, Inc. in West Allis in November 2008 where it was transformed to original specifications. Badger #2 was shipped back home to North Freedom on December 16, 2009. Visit Mid-Continent Railway Museum for description and photos of the renovation from start to completion.