Earlier this week Mark Lotterhand posted an astonishing photo to Flickr, reproduced here with his permission, that told an equally astonishing story, about a gravid (pregnant) garter snake that was run over right in front of his house. “We found her just as she was expiring. Some of her young were pushed out of her vent when a tire ran directly over her. Although they were all dead, I did see some squirming movement coming from inside her. I cut the still writhing body open and removed all the remaining young. Most were dead, or dying … but three beat the odds!”
This strikes me as exactly the sort of scenario that leads people to believe that garter snakes swallow their young to protect them — a biological impossibility that many rural residents still insist is true, as much as they did when Raymond Ditmars got hundreds of letters about the subject in 1931. Finding babies inside a dead mother can be pretty convincing if you don’t know that garter snakes are live-bearers.
Here’s a photo of the surviving baby garters (some cuteness for you, to compensate for the grisly photo above). Mark tells me that two of the three babies have already eaten.