Feeding time

I mentioned yesterday that the landlord’s daughter looked after our apartment when we were off in the Maritimes. She was basically housesitting for the cats, frog, turtle and fish; one of the advantages of snakes is that they can be left alone for a week or two with very little risk. She was a trooper, but a little ambivalent about the snakes. Not to worry, we said: just change their water if they foul it and make sure they have enough of it; she wouldn’t have to feed them or touch them.

But curiosity persisted, especially among those who visited with her, viz., her younger brother and her boyfriend. So on Wednesday night we invited them over to watch us feed the snakes.

Watching snakes eat is always popular, and inevitably draws crowds. It’s not just that they get a perverse thrill out of watching them snuff the life out of some inoffensive little animal, as a city official once declared to me during by-law negotiations. It’s the amazement that the snake can eat something that big, and can do it without chewing, biting off into pieces, or table manners. It’s one thing to explain how a snake’s skull is flexible and can disjoint itself in several places where a human skull is fused together, quite another to see it in action.

So of course they ate up seeing the snakes eat up, especially the rat eaters, who looked about ready to explode. The gopher snakes went off their feed again (sigh), so their adult mice were redistributed; the Baird’s rat snake got one, after his hopper mouse, and looked enormous thereafter.

But it wasn’t just the ability to eat something huge, either; it was the speed with which snakes attacked their meals. Many of these snakes don’t move around real fast otherwise, so it was a bit of an eye-opener to see them strike (and in some cases constrict) in an instant.

All in all, they were transfixed. This is the sort of thing that will make us very popular with the local kids, and quite possibly very unpopular with their mothers.