I thought the leopard slug I discovered on the porch yesterday at dusk was the worst thing I’d seen this summer.
Almost the length of my hand, it trailed its silvery sap behind it, creeping along the boards as though it hadn’t a care in the world. I could easily have smushed it with my bare foot, on my way to watch the fireflies.
These creatures, genus Limax, live beneath the weathered floor boards in some comfortable arrangement I imagine as including a cigar box bed out of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers. But ookier. Hermaphrodites, the slugs have an unusual style of mating, using a thick thread of mucus to hang suspended in the air from a tree branch or other structure, an intense balcony scene to beat Shakespeare’s. The leopard slug was first spotted in the New World relatively recently, in a Philadelphia basement, in 1867.
How’d it get up to my house?
This morning, another discovery, when Gil was mowing the grass.
He laid it out on the porch. The shed skin of a snake, long and dry.
I saw this very snake not so long ago, out a window, as it travelled across the back forty towards the Cabin. Jet black and thick as my wrist. Moving in a straight shot towards me. Purposeful. We know they hole up under the clapboards at the back wall of the house because we’ve found their skins there before, left behind like a tossed-aside, too-tight jacket.
A black rat snake such as this one consumes mice and rats and sometimes even chipmunks (I noticed a decline in the chipmunk population around the cabin). It exudes an unpleasant musk as a deterrent to predators, but is known to be shy and will freeze, supposedly, if it spots you close by. It’s not poisonous, but if provoked further it will snap.
It’s sometimes identified, according to Wiki, as: Alleghany black snake, black chicken snake, black coluber, chicken snake, mountain black snake, mountain pilot snake, pilot, rat snake, rusty black snake, scaly black snake, cow snake, schwartze Schlange, sleepy John, and white-throated racer…
This particular schwartze Schlange was six-and-a-half feet long, from the reptile’s head — you can see its eyeholes —
to its tail.
Perhaps the rat snake will find the leopard slug appetizing. But what will eat the rat snake?