Snake Swallows a Plastic Nest Egg

After a new chicken farmer's plastic "nest egg" goes missing for several weeks, he discovers an egg-sized lump in a rat snake on his property…and learns from experience how to get it out.


| November/December 1990



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A snake can swallow a plastic egg, but won't be able to digest or discharge it on its own.


PHOTO: DOUG ELLIOTT

A chunk of paradise. That's what my wife, Yanna, and I call our homestead on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We have ponds, a small orchard and a large organic garden. Of course, it wouldn't be paradise without a serpent or two. And do we have serpents! "Some of 'em are big enough to put sidesaddles on," one local old-timer told us. Our area is home to at least 20 kinds of nonpoisonous snakes—not to mention the occasional copperhead or rattlesnake.

One of our neighbors recommended that we put out "snake boards" to monitor the population. These are just pieces of plywood, paneling or sheet metal scattered around the edge of our garden and orchard. Each piece is propped up a few inches on rocks or short sections of 2 × 4. This creates an ideal habitat for snakes—it's warm, dry, dark and protected—and it attracts rodents, which snakes like to eat.

Every now and then we check the boards. If there are copperheads around, I want to know about it—these we dispose of in various ways. Nonpoisonous snakes we enjoy and want to encourage. Not only are the snakes beautiful, but they help control the excessive number of hungry rodents around our house, garden and chicken coop. Over the last few years we have found king snakes, mole snakes, racers, garter snakes, water snakes and corn snakes under our boards.

Early last summer, I was amazed to find two big black rat snakes under the boards. These are among the largest and most handsome of our nonpoisonous snakes. I could tell one had recently eaten by the bulge in its body. Could it have been one of those pesky voles that had been ravaging the potatoes? This was a big lump—maybe it had eaten the rat that had been hanging around the chicken coop. In any case, we were thrilled that they were eating our rodents.

I knew from observing captive snakes that a large meal can take as long as a week to digest. During this process, the snake retreats to a secluded place where it can rest and not have to move its distended body. That's exactly what this snake had done.

Every day we would go out and lift the board just enough to check on them. Whenever friends visited we took them over to see "our" snakes—an awesome sight indeed, as they raised their heads and calmly peered out at us, their tongues flickering curiously above the sprawl of glistening black coils. We noted the bulge in the one snake's body. Even after a week the lump seemed to be the same size.





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