Procreation on the Deck

New experiences, however carnal they might be, are worth reporting and yesterday's spectacle deserves a post.  It began early in the afternoon when I awoke from a nap on our back deck, a common consequence of outdoor reading (or indoor reading for that matter).

Glancing down from my chair, I saw a large garter snake inching across the planks.  Assuming it was hunting for insects, I remained still, hoping to observe a strike on a moth or beetle.  Within a minute or so, however, the scene changed dramatically as two smaller snakes raced onto the deck, intertwining themselves with the larger serpent.

I was observing the mini version of a "mating ball," commonly seen in garter snakes.  In spring, female garters, larger than their male counterparts, release pheromones that attract males in the area; the frenzied suitors, jockeying for position, curl about the female, hoping to become a parent.  Once the mating activity ends, the female stores the sperm until late summer, when her eggs are fertilized; the young (generally a dozen or so but potentially up to 100) are born alive and hunt on their own until killed by predators or until chilly autumn weather triggers hibernation.  Some will likely spend the winter beneath our deck, the site of their procreation.