While feeding his dogs last Saturday, George Pierce of Kasilof noticed something out of place in his back yard — a garter snake.
The frozen reptile, 1 1/2 feet in length, was coiled up uncovered by the melting snow. Pierce, who has lived in Alaska for more than 25 years, said he would never expect to find a snake this far north.
“It’s an odd thing to find here especially this time of year,” he said. “Like it fell out of the sky. Not something you see everyday.”
As for the cause of death of the snake, while the above average temperatures this month might have been warm enough for the snake to survive outside, Pierce said the nick on the end of its tail suggests he may have run it over with his snow blower.
He said he could only speculate to how the slithering reptile retired in his yard.
Pierce said he lives a block away from Tustemena Elementary School on the Sterling Highway. Perhaps it is an escapee from a classroom show and tell or maybe the snake arrived here through transport from the Lower 48, he said.
Tustemena Elementary School Principal Doug Hayman said nobody has reported any missing pet snakes.
Alaska Fish and Game wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger said snakes in Southcentral Alaska are not as far-fetched as one would think. The common garter snake is the only species of snake found in Alaska and can be found as far up as Northern Canada, he said.
Selinger said no snakes have been recorded living in the wild in the Kenai Peninsula, but that does not mean people cannot have them as an indoor pet. Some pet stores sell garter snakes, he said.
Another possibility that the snake arrived in Alaska via cargo ship, he said.
“(Garter snakes) live off insects and frogs,” he said. “It is not out of the question one could survive here, but our harsh climate makes it difficult in the winter.”
After 21 years, Our Best Friends pet store on Kalifornsky Beach Road went out of business last March. Selinger said the store did sell reptile pets. The Petco in Soldotna, which opened October 2012, is the only pet store in the central peninsula.
Petco employee Brittney Bickle said the Soldotna store does not have any garter snakes in stock, but said she is aware of one customer who keeps one as a pet and feeds them fish. Bickle recommends anyone interested in adopting a garter snake to inquire in the summertime.
Pierce may not know where the snake came from, but has learned to never rule anything out when living in Alaska.
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.