29 May 2005


We went out this evening to get the pool set up in preparation for filling with water tomorrow. While Mum was straighening the outdoor carpet that's there to help keep dirt out of the pool, what we though was a rather large salamander went scurrying out, and under another piece of carpet. I didn't want it to get stepped on (and I can't resist amphibians and reptiles), so I went in chase, only to discover that there was also a little garter snake under there. It was a pretty yellow-striped black one, and probably one of this year's babies (under six inches, anyway). Imagine trying to catch a fast-moving salamander with one hand (the other being occupied with the snake). I finally realized it would be easier to catch the one if I let the other go, so I freed little snake in the brush where the cats wouldn't be likely to find him. The supposed salamander had moved along under the edge of the carpet, so I followed, only to be distracted by another snake, also a small one, but a draber brown with olive stripes. I caught him (snake number two) and let him go in the brush. Mr Salamander, meanwhile, scurried into the basket of toys, and Mum began to straighten the carpet I'd messed up. She lifed up the end, only to find . . . yes, more snakes. Four or five of them. Snakes in all directions and me in the middle trying to catch them all (we wouldn't want any to get stepped on, now would we?). They ranged in size from a brand-new three-inch long baby to a big ol' grandfather snake (well, maybe a middle-aged snake). Of course, "big" for a garter snake is maybe not even an inch thick at the biggest part, and maybe not much more than two feet long. He was a pretty fellow, with bright blue stripes.

All the snakes caught and safely let go in the bushes (or chased there) (there were cats lurking about), I turned my attention back to Mr Salamander, maybe. He'd come out the other side of the toy basket and was heading for the brush, but I had to catch him anyway. I'd never seen one so big (around five inches long, at a guess). I did catch him, and he sat quite calmly in my grip, with his prickly little claws on my fingers. And he wasn't a salamander. Mum and I both had assumed he was, since we see salamanders fairly often (though mostly I've seen wee little two-inch red-backed salamanders, and one slightly larger rough-skinned newt). This fellow was something I hadn't seen before, though I knew they were around--a northern alligator lizard, our only native lizard on Vancouver Island. It was pretty cool. We had a good look at him (I say "him" only because he kind of looked like a boy; could very well have been female), and then I let him go in the bushes.

After that, I walked around grinning like a fool and giggling. It was very cool.

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