I needed some thyme for the salad this lunchtime and thought I’d snip some from the bush in the ground rather than from the  pots. I found an entire black and green whipsnake skin wound around the thyme, behind the pots and disappearing into a crack in the wall. I pulled it all out—exactly four feet of sloughed snake skin.

I suspected a whipsnake lives under the house, having seen one zipping under the walls several times, and while I was measuring the skin, one of its children popped out to have a look, so I guess I was right.

The old editor posts tiny pics…

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

40 thoughts on “Surprise”

  1. Wow! The photos are fine. When you click on them, they enlarge.
    I don’t mind a snake outside, but I wouldn’t be so blithe about them living under the house. I hope they don’t venture upstairs. . .
    Did you get your thyme? 😉

    1. Ah, I’m glad the photos come out better than I can see them. They probably can get inside if they want to. Some things do. There’s a hole in the corner of the bedroom that goes straight through the wall. We’ve blocked it up and whatever made it hasn’t been back.
      The snakes are impressive. Usually they zip away, but sometimes they don’t, they just stare and that is scary.

  2. So interesting! I’m impressed that you can identify the snake at all, much less by only its skin. I also didn’t realize that the shed skin would hold together so well. How sturdy is it? Could people make some craft out of it?

    1. Ha ha! It’s by process of elimination. There are only so many possibilities and since I’ve seen whipsnakes in that same spot already this summer, and because the grass snakes are quite a lot bigger than that, I’m assuming it’s a whipsnake.
      The skin is very delicate, papery. Luckily I’d weeded that patch recently so there wasn’t too much to tangle with it, and the part under the house wasn’t very long. You wouldn’t be able to do anything with it. Some of the large belly scales are almost detached.

  3. Are they poisonous?
    The house I grew up with had snakes outside all the time. There were marsh lands all around (now multi storied apartments adorn those landfills). Majority of those snakes were harmless and kept the rodent population in check allowing us to enjoy a beautiful vegetable garden throughout the year. Few of those were caught on my home made fishing rod resulting in the loss of my rod/s or loss of life. Unfortunately there may have been a few poisonous one as our ten years old dog died out of snake bite.

    1. No, they’re not poisonous. As far as I know there are very few poisonous snake round here, and I’ve only ever seen non-poisonous ones, but the whip snakes are a bit unpredictable. Sometimes they zip away, other times though they just lie there across the path and defy you to get any closer. They have a nasty bite, or rather bites, because they don’t stop at one. Dogs are wary of snakes. Your poor dog must have blundered onto one by accident.

  4. I’ve found a few snakeskins – about three in the eight years of living here. It’s fascinating how the shed bit can stay in one piece. The longest one I found was just under a meter. It can be attributed to a few species, one of which I wouldn’t want to tangle with for sure, it being very poisonous, called the green mamba. Plenty harmless grass snakes around as well.

    1. There’s only one poisonous species round here and I haven’t seen any. The others are harmless, in the sense of not being venomous, but the black and green whip snakes apparently are biters.

  5. I remember my father killing a large poisonous snake with a hoe in back of one of our houses, but we used to play with the little ones in the grass. You would not catch me doing that now. Finbar has the right attitude.

    1. There’s not much you can do with poisonous snakes around the house except kill them, I suppose. I hope the babies didn’t bite! Finbar is frightened of snakes and frogs. The froglets are big enough to scare him now.

  6. Well.. I’m speechless with surprise! No snakes in NZ at all so this just totally amazes me. The idea of going out to get some thyme and finding a beautifully-intact BIG snake skin.. how incredible! Really awesome Lady Jane!

      1. I haven’t read of fossil snakes here but there were crocodiles and turtles – it’s interesting what the fossil record reveals at St Bathans in Otago (the region I live in): “Excavations at St Bathans offer flashbacks that look like a tantalising match with Foulden: casuarinas, eucalypts, palms, and cycads. But it’s St Bathans’ menagerie that has palaeontologists fizzing—three-metre-long crocodiles, turtles, giant burrowing bats, and the prized exhibit: a mouse-sized mammal.” from

  7. I’m smiling. We have a four foot long Ball Python who lives in the house. His name is Scrunchy because when he was little my daughter used to wrap him around her hair like a Scrunchy when she would go out to the store. 🙂

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