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Getting to Know Northern Ring-Necked Snakes

In my Calvert country neighborhood, my ­kitties help me meet the neighbors

I grew up climbing trees and playing with Matchbox cars.
    Scary spiders and slithery snakes? I didn’t bat an eye. Daddy’s girl was tough.
    So when the kitty brothers Stripey and Babey bring home squirmy rewards, I’m the one among my family of hubby and two almost-grown boys to take care of it. Two ring-necked snakes have made it inside with kitties’ help.
    The ring-neck is a smallish snake, growing up to about two feet long. It is bluish-black with a yellow or red ring around its neck and a matching belly.
    The ones the kitties bring me — about a half-dozen so far — are about six inches long.
    There must be a nest nearby.
    Ring-necks usually hide under logs, rocks, leaf litter or matted plants. Because they are sociable, they often hide together. They hunt at night and swallow small creatures whole. Large creatures they suffocate by constriction.
    When threatened, ring-necks have a variety of defenses.
    First, the snake will coil its body and show the bright underside of its belly to frighten its attacker.
    Next, it will release a foul odor.
    If these tricks don’t work, the ring-neck will bite. The bite is savage but not poisonous.
    I had a decision to make when the kitties brought in a ring-necked snake and a plump, tiny mole at the same time.
    I had to make it quick, as the dogs were interested in both creatures.
    I scooped up the snake barehanded and carried it outside. As I got back inside, the mole scurried into the crevice between the wall and the dishwasher.
    Kitties, pups and I waited and watched for much of an hour. Finally, mole emerged into the watching circle, where it stood paralyzed with fear.
    Swiftly, I scooped it up and off to freedom.
    Maybe this mole and ring-neck will warn the others.