Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Snakes alive


Sometime ago I wrote this about the Bahamian boa, one of the two snakes that live on this island:
Sometimes it just doesn't pay to do a good deed. Consider the Bahamian boa, a thick black-and-white snake that grows to an impressive length and spends its indolent life feeding on the vermin -- rats, mice -- that no one wants around the house. You'd think folks would welcome a boa to the neighborhood, set out little treats. But no. Show a Bahamian a boa and he'll hack it with a shovel. Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and -- whacko! -- dead.
I also predicted that with all the recent strip-to-the bare-land development we wouldn't see another boa in the neighborhood. Wrong! Yesterday morning my neighbor Dwight called and said, "Chet, a boa."

I zipped down the lane with my camera (click to enlarge) and there it was, a gorgeous thing, five or six feet long, a thick as my arm. Fowl snakes, the Bahamians call them, presumably because they took chickens from the yard. Babies from the cradle too, according to legend, but I don't believe that for a moment. Nevertheless, the Bahamians believe it, and a seen boa is a dead boa. And so this magnificent animal edges toward extinction.

The Bahamian boa is a true boa constrictor, descended from South American invaders that crossed a supposed land bridge during the Ice Age. In his book on Bahamian natural history, David Campbell says that a typical fowl snake litter is one to fifty. Fifty baby boa constrictors! That would be something to see.

(In transit tomorrow. Back Thursday.)