Siamese Cat Versus Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern Garter Snake

Today, I witnessed a strange encounter – Kicia vs Garter snake. If you didn't read my previous post, Kicia is my neighbours’ blue-eyed Siamese cat. It all started in the morning.

While sipping a latte in the backyard, my attention is drawn to some unusual noise coming from last-year leaves still covering the ground between the bushes. I turn around and – to my surprise – the yellow stripped head of an Eastern Garter snake rises from the dead foliage. Next out of the bushes – Kicia, tracking the snake at close range.

My approach interrupts the chase as both stop in front of me. The snake seems to be less impressed by my presence so it turns around to confront the real danger. Kicia meows a faint hello without losing sight of the snake and positions herself less than two feet from the snake. And, from her body language, she's ready to strike.

With the head raised in defensive position, the snake is keeping Kicia under close observation. A sudden tentative to get away is just what Kicia is waiting for. In a fraction of a second she's on top of the snake, with her claws drawn. At the same moment I decide to intervene – I pull Kicia off the snake and remove her from the garden.

For the cat this is just playtime. For the small Garter snake, a 30cm-long juvenile, this is a matter of life and death. Kicia is hunting because of her feline instincts and not out of hunger. There is no reason letting this snake being harmed. In any other situation in the wild, I'd have let nature take its course – foxes, birds of prey, coyotes, regularly hunt snakes.

I returned a few minutes later to take a photograph of the snake. As I got back in the garden, the snake was at the same location but visibly more relaxed. He became a bit more attentive as I approached but by now he was ready to go. A few seconds after I made the above photograph he safely exited my backyard.

I labeled this individual a male based on its length and its tail. Males are smaller in length than females and have longer and thicker tails. Garter snakes are common and are harmless to humans. This is not the first time I encounter an Eastern Garter Snake, but it is the first time when I find one in my backyard.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Interesting Facts About Australia July 26, 2010 at 8:14 am

Snakes possess a well-developed skeletal structure and are therefore considered vertebrates. Like lizards and turtles, their bodies are covered with scales, which also classifies them as reptiles. Snakes and other reptiles are poikilothermic, which is derived from Greek terms meaning "variable temperature." This means that their body temperature depends largely on the temperature of their surroundings. Snakes must move into and out of various temperature zones to regulate their bodily functions properly. Basking in the sun is vital to physiological processes such as temperature regulation, digestion and egg development.

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Mike Lascut July 26, 2010 at 9:49 am

Hi Nancy. Thanks much for your comment. The bushes from were the Garter snake came out of provide exactly that type of environment. Under them there is shade for those hot days where the snake needs to cool off. Surrounding the bushes are areas which remain in full sun all day long. Perfect location for the snake to warm their cold blooded bodies. I’ve looked for it in the following days, throughout the garden but unfortunately couldn’t find it. Probably moved on to better pastures.

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