Meet the fox snake

It’s been awhile since I’ve been newly certified to demo a zoo animal, so it was a nice surprise Thursday to come in for my volunteer shift, pick up my schedule and find a fox snake fact sheet and quiz attached. Snakes are my favorite and primary critter to demonstrate, and this new (to me) variety joins the bullsnake, milk snake, cornsnake and Western hognose as one of theĀ Minnesota Zoo snakes I’ve had the good fortune to hold, discuss and write about over the years. Once we’d studied our fact sheets and passed our quizzes, fellow volunteer Carol and I went behind the scenes for a test run with this new (to us) reptile.

Minnesota Zoo fox snakeThese guys have the blotches and coloration of a milksnake, share the southern Minnesota habitat of the bullsnake (both like to hang out near the Twin Cities area’s three major rivers) and boast a silky skin texture that reminds me of the hognose. Like most of the snakes we present to the zoo-going public, they kill mice and other small rodents by constriction (and ingest a weekly thawed mouse at the zoo). And their name? Supposedly they can emit a “musky fox-like odor” if handled too aggressively — a Zoomobile staffer described it as a milder form of skunk — though we happily did not experience this in our first encounter. With any luck, I won’t experience it in the later ones, either.