Giant watersnake claims family dock as his sunbathing spot

Common or northern watersnakes are found throughout North America in almost any body of fresh water. Although they can grow to nearly 1.8 m (5 feet), they are not harmful or venomous. They feed on fish, frogs, toads, and crayfish along the shorelines and shallows of lakes. And, despite being as beneficial as they are to maintaining the balance of the ecosystem, they are seen as the true villains of cottage country by many. Fear of snakes ranks as the number two irrational fear in the world, closely behind public speaking. Many people who fear snakes cannot articulate exactly what it is that scares them. Some believe that it is because of their slithery motion, while others say that they expect them to be cold and slimy. But one thing is certain; snakes rarely receive a warm welcome. This snake is doing exactly what would be expected of it as it hunts for fish and frogs in the shallows around a weedy shoreline. The water in Northern Ontario is still cool enough that this snake cannot maintain her body temperature for long. She finds a quiet spot on this family dock to stretch out in the midday sun. Being cold blooded, these snakes must warm themselves in the sun so that they are able to move properly and also to raise their metabolism and digest food. When they lie across a dock, they have no more interest in an interaction than we do. But, like us, they do enjoy a warm, dry spot to catch some rays. Snakes are capable of dislocating their jaws to swallow prey that is much larger than their mouth would usually be. This allows them to slowly work their jaws around a larger animal and over them. Watersnakes are often confused with venomous rattlesnakes due to their markings. But watersnakes are easily distinguished by the round shape of their pupils as opposed to a slit like appearance like a cat. They also lack the heat pits on their faces. And while swimming, a watersnake's body is submerged, while a rattlesnake's body floats on top. These differences will not be completely reassuring to those who are simply afraid of all snakes, but knowing that a visiting snake is of the harmless variety should help ease their minds. Left alone, watersnakes will be on their way after warming up for an hour or two in the sun.

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