Answer Man: That big snake was actually a fox
Last week, I penned a wonderful column item on a big snake that swam across the pond at Whistle Binkies on the Lake . I happened to be there that night with my boss and his wife, and we watched it glide magically across the surface of the pond. When it reached the beach, my boss told me to "get down there and shoot a pic."
I asked, "Do I have to?" He told me to get moving, so I did, though I wasn't happy about it. I don't care if he does sign my paycheck — my job description doesn't say anything about taking closeup photos of 4-foot-long snakes.
I'm no snake expert, but I speculated that it was a northern water snake . The DNR says that's the only swimming snake native to the state, though as I noted in my column, there are so many exotic species dumped into ponds these days that who knows what's going to crawl out on the beach.
Anyway, I asked for other guesses and got this note from the Post-Bulletin's Nature Nut columnist:
Oh, All Wise Answer Man, I'm thinking the snake in the picture was not a water snake. Many of our native snakes, including fox snakes and garter snakes, can be seen swimming in water. The one pictured appeared to be too big for a water snake or garter snake, so my money would be on a fox snake.
If you want to email me the pic, I can look a bit closer unless you have already analyzed it to your satisfaction. — Nature Nut
Nothing is ever analyzed to my complete satisfaction, so I sent the pic to him as well as to a DNR snake expert. "Definitely a fox snake ," Nature Nut ruled, and the DNR's Jamie Edwards agreed. "We do have water snakes in the area and it is possible to have them at Whistle Binkies' pond, but the snake in the photo is definitely a fox snake. Water snakes likely wouldn't get that long and their coloration is a bit darker."
It's called a fox snake not because it has big ears or a bushy tail — it apparently gives off a musky odor such as a red fox, though believe me, I didn't get close enough to smell it. It's harmless, unless you're a mouse, bird, frog or other small animal, in which case you're likely to get a big hug if you get too close.
By the way, when I went down to the beach to snap the photos, I heard a kid who was safely on the restaurant patio say, "Is he a snake wrestler?"
I am so not a snake wrestler.
Dear Answer Man, what's going on at Saint Marys Hospital? There are workers all around the west end of the building outside.
They've fixing the brickwork on the Domitilla, Joseph and Francis buildings. If you're enjoying a cold beverage out in front of the Canadian Honker, hopefully away from the bus exhaust, and gazing at Saint Marys across the street, the Domitilla is on your left, the Joseph is in the center and the Francis is on the right.
The Joseph building was in special need of tuckpointing and TLC, according to Mayo's Kelley Luckstein. They're in the midst of a two-year touch-up.
Barring any new developments, I'm done with the snake story now. Send questions to P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903 or firstname.lastname@example.org.