Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Norman the Campus Snake

Biology Professor Claus Holzapfel sent this photo to us today along with these comments:

New addition to our urban biodiversity: Norman

We know by now that our urban campus is host to quite a number of wild migratory birds; our list topped 100 species a while ago. But who would have thought that we also share our space with reptiles? On this unseasonably mild Monday we found a small snake struggling with a wintering Hermit Thrush just outside Boyden Hall on Norman Samuels Plaza. The bird seems to have mistaken the snake for an earthworm. I initially thought the same, but I have never seen an earthworm putting up such a fight. I identified the snake as a northern brown snake (Storeria dekayi), a small snake species that used to be quite common even in urban environments. The advance of pollution and increased use of pesticides changed that and one has to be quite lucky to observe one today. We took the snake into our care and called it Norman (obviously). We hope tiny Norman, only about 7 inches long, gets settled into his new winter home and that we can release him (it) in spring. You can visit Norman, our one and only Rutgers Newark snake in Boyden Hall if you want.