Unlike many of you, I’m sure, our family actually likes snakes. I mean to the point of having them as pets at one time and not having problems picking them up in the yard. We are fortunate that we live in an area with no poisonous snakes, so the sight of a snake in the yard doesn’t concern us. In fact, we like when we see snakes. Snakes eat rodents and we do not like rodents. Rodents can carry disease and make a mess. Give me a snake over a mouse or rat any day!
Last week, while we were working in the yard, my son found this beautiful prairie king snake in our yard. My husband picked it up and we all got to hold it. It was a fabulous opportunity to teach the kids a little about snakes.
The Prairie King Snake
The prairie king snake is a common snake in Illinois. They are usually found in grassy areas near woods and some sort of water. We found ours on the side of our yard heading for the creek that runs along our property. Prairie King snakes are usually docile and one of the easiest snakes to handle. However, they have been known to bite (no teeth or venom) if they feel threatened. They are wild animals, after all. I have seen prairie king snakes try and fake being tougher than they really are by curling up and shaking their tail like a rattlesnake. This defense mechanism can scare of many predators. It’s actually pretty cool to watch.
Prairie king snakes are known by their light brown background color with dark brown blotches along their bodies. According to the E-nature online guide , they grow to be 30-50 inches in length. They eat rodents, frogs, insects and other reptiles.
Our fortunate find sparked a great conversation and a little research. The kids were so interested in learning more about the snake because they found it, touched it, saw where it lived and watched it slither away. They had lots of questions and a new understanding. I love when learning happens like that. Those are the lessons that will stay with them.
There have been too many times I have passed over backyard finds or other questions my kids have had without exploring them. I need to remember that there are times when our educational agenda or our daily to-do list can wait. We have to strike when the iron is hot – explore while the interest is there.
I challenge you to keep your eyes open for those spontaneous education opportunities!