Helping a turtle cross a road is easy. Placing a starfish stranded at low tide back in the ocean is simple. Removing a fishing line from the beak of a pelican is somewhat problematic. Helping a wild snake shed its skin? Sometimes it’s better to let them take care of their wardrobe changes.
I nearly stumbled upon a Gray Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta spiloides) at the lighthouse in the St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge in Florida’s panhandle. Seemingly unaware of my presence, the six-foot long, foggy-eyed snake was busy scraping its head and neck along the freshly painted foundation of the early 19th century structure. Gray Rat Snakes are a subspecies of the Eastern Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta).
Snakes shed several times per year depending on frequency of feedings, environmental conditions and age. This was a relatively large snake, although they can grow to seven feet in length.
The weather in the panhandle of Florida had been very dry over the last few weeks which may have led to this snake’s difficulty freeing itself from a dry and itchy situation.
Gaining little progress from scraping the wall, the snake slid across the grass, turned its head over and rubbed it on the sandy ground, eventually making its way to a rough, pebbly sidewalk that helped relieve the hang up.
As the snake slithered along the ground, the skin slowly rolled itself off, revealing a vibrant, colorful skin. No thanks to me.