Last week, I was so busy looking up at the trees that I almost stepped on this striking Eastern Cornsnake (Pantherophis guttatus). Before I was even consciously aware that anything was in the trail, my brain forced my body to take two giant steps backwards.
I suppose my conditioned response was the result of growing up in the Sonoran Desert where my encounters with rattlesnakes far outnumbered my meetings with non-venomous serpents. Knock on wood, but I’ve never been bitten or even struck at, though that distinctive rattling sound kicks my heart rate up every time.
Sadly, this snake is often confused with the venomous Eastern Copperhead and killed. One of the traits that differentiates the two is the eyes. If you get close enough (or, may I suggest a zoom lens) look for round pupils versus the cat-like eyes of the copperhead.
By the way, guttatus is Latin for spotted or dappled. What an attractive snake!