HM has always called these “blue racers,” but I guess more correctly they’re called yellow-bellied racers (the species name is Coluber constrictor mormon). They’re really gorgeous snakes–kind of a gray/olive color on top, with a light chartreuse belly. This is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen out here–about 2.5′ long. I didn’t get a great picture of his body, unfortunately–most of it was hidden in the grass.
These snakes are also really fast (hence the name). I’ve had the delightfully energizing experience of getting some of these guys out of the house after a cat has brought them in. Racers can climb out of just about anything in a flash (five-gallon buckets, small trash cans–they’re amazing) so my default snake-catching method now is to scoop them up in a pillowcase and pinch the top shut. On one memorable occasion we had one in the newspaper office when we were on deadline that I could NOT catch…we had to finish up hoping that he wouldn’t zip out from under a filing cabinet.
I happened to look out front last night and noticed Notch in a corner of our front yard in his “I’ve got a mouse” pose. Then I saw him meow, and meow again–and I knew he had a snake. Most cats I’ve known seem to dislike the way snakes taste and behave (even so, few can resist messing with them) so normally snakes are in really good shape when they arrive at the house–a little bit of a mixed blessing there.
I brought Notch in the house and grabbed the camera, but by the time I got back out front he’d already cycled through the cat door in the backyard and climbed the fence to rejoin me in the front yard. Giant pest. (Like all smart cats, he has a long attention span.) He plopped down in the grass nearby, blinking happily at me, obviously uninterested in resuming the game with Mr. Racer. In a few minutes the snake squipped off into the lilacs, unharmed, and Notch followed me back to the garage, doing his trademark “let me run in front of you and stop so you have to notice me and/or trip and fall to your death” maneuver.
A long time ago, one of these snakes curled up in the shower downstairs and scared one of the twins nearly to death. The most upsetting part, according to him? “It lifted its head and was LOOKING at me!”
Nothing quite like the cold stare of a reptile.