On one hike this season, I ended up leading my group very off trail. NY trails aren’t so very well marked, and its easy to veer off the main trail onto old, unmaintained trail. We accidentally ended up on such a trail, but only realized it about 15 minutes into the trail. The trail was extremely overgrown and it became apparent that this was not where we were supposed to be going.
Its always annoying to get lost, but it was worth it! On our little trek off the beaten path, we bumped into a lovely snake having lunch. It was a black racer eating some sort of small lizard. Black racers are very common in Upstate New York and are not poisonous. We watched the snake devour its prey and got a little bit closer to get a good look.
The snake then did the most surprising thing. It rattled its tail! I stood there completely shocked, this clearly wasn’t a rattlesnake and I began to reconsider whether this was indeed a nonvenomous black racer. My friend with me knew much better than me, she quickly pointed out that this is a common snake behavior. Snakes will imitate rattlesnakes ( which are venomous) to scare off predators. They don’t have little rattles on their tails, so they’ll just flick their tails back and forth on leaves to simulate the sound of a rattle. Brilliant! The ingenuity of Nature at its best.