Well hellooo there!!!
Keep reading unless you suffer from Ophidiophobia-The word comes from the Greek words “ophis” (ὄφις), snake, and “phobia” (φοβία) meaning fear:) Other wise, read on! Who knew what inhabits your compost bin! Ours is constructed of 4 old pallets, filled with leaves last year/or this Spring from the previous owners. Mike was loading the compost into the wheelbarrow when this fellow, and three of his litter mates popped up in the wheel barrow along with their eggs attached, they were just hatching out! Oh MY! What a beauty! This is an Ontario Gray Rat snake, Pantherophis spiloides. We had a large specimen this Spring in the driveway, mama maybe? They can reach over 2.5 meters long, they get big, but look at this little guy! One of his litter mates was shaking his tail like a rattler and rearing up:) muy bravo, very brave/angry. I guess when you are this small you have to look out for yourself!
These are non-venomous snakes I might add:) It seems they favour hardwood forests near water…bingo! Right here!
The Gray Rat snake is a constrictor and feeds mostly on small mammals and birds. Since it spends some of its time in trees, it is an efficient predator of bird nests….no….look out little hummingbirds next year! During the breeding season, females will mate with multiple males and produce a clutch of eggs sired by different fathers. Females reach sexual maturity at 7–9 years of age and females typically only reproduce every two or three years and they can live for 25–30 years. Gray rat snakes breed in spring, the females laying their eggs, as many as 12 to 16, in rotting logs, under rocks and warm compost bins are a favourite! Multiple females will use the same nest sight as well. The hatchlings, which are 30 to 40 centimetres long ( 11-12 inches), emerge in late summer or early fall. Juveniles prefer a diet of frogs and lizards. In eastern Ontario, they can hibernate communally in rocky outcrops called hibernacula! We could have colonies here!
The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
The size of an average mature Gray Rat snake home rang is approximately 18.5 ha, or 45 acres. Predators include Red-Tailed Hawks as well as Fishers and Raccoons. Juveniles fall prey to Crows and even Turkeys. Glad these eggs didn’t fall into the hands of our Raccoon family! Three more hatched today, we’d unearthed them yesterday and then put them back, covering them carefully, this morning all that was left were the egg shells!
Isn’t Mother Nature amazing! Still waiting for the turtle babies!