On foggy Monday morning, a group of students from Clackamas High School came out to one of our newest sites on Rock Creek to plant some trees and shrubs to help restore its degraded riparian zone. Despite the fact that the students barely had an hour to help us out, and we had over 120 plants to put in the ground, they managed to get all of the plants planted, even with a few minutes to spare! Great job guys!
Some students had an amazing wildlife encounter while planting a tree. Just a student was halfway through digging her hole for a nice snowberry shrub, she noticed a particularly longish and dark worm coming out of the dirt in the bottom of the hole, but it wasn’t a worm, it was a tiny little garter snake! Garter snakes are endemic to most of North America, feeding on insects, tree frogs, and earthworms and we frequently find them slithering along many of the streams at SOLV Green Team sites. But what was it doing underground? Snakes, like all reptiles, are cold-blooded or ectothermic, in that they cannot regulate their body temperatures. When cold weather comes in winter, Oregon’s garter snakes brumate, which means that they slow down their metabolism to almost a standstill (similar to mammals’ hibernation, but snakes do not sleep like mammals) since it is too cold for them to hunt. Since they barely move when they are in this state, garter snakes find a nice place underground below the frost line to wait out the cold weather (they will die if frozen). It looks like we stumbled into this poor snakes winter hideout! However, we picked him up, and moved him away from the work site so he wouldn’t be bothered again, and in the process, he probably picked up some heat from our hands and got the energy he needed to find a new place to wait for spring.
Thanks Clackamas High School for your hard work! Rock Creek and all of its inhabitants (including groggy garter snakes) thank you!