I quickly spot him and aim. Shoot. It’s not a very good photograph. Too much shade. I want a better shot of a rattlesnake. I return again and again to the Bruce Peninsula. They avoid me.

I see other snakes. Thankfully, a huge water snake at the edge of a swamp escapes with a sudden swish and a splash before I step on him. At Cabot Head Lighthouse a Hog-nosed Snake pokes its snout out from under the boardwalk and peeks up at me. That’s a little too close to a snake to suit me. I scurry right along.

In Algonquin Park, I come across a rather handsome fellow I don’t know.


After a few nervous seconds, we both settle down and I get a couple of decent photos. But he’s not a rattlesnake.

A pretty green snake in MacGregor Point Provincial Park doesn’t move at all as I take a whole series of photos. Eventually the truth dawns.

photographer shoots a bright green snake dead on the road

I complain to another hiker about the lack of rattlers. He tells me I’ll see them for sure under the stone ledge at the edge of the alvar at Singing Sands. Well, I’ve been out there many times and have yet to see a rattler, but, once again, I take the woodland trail to the end and step down from the two-foot stone ledge onto the bedrock. This time, I turn around, bend down and take good long look into the shadowy world of the underside of the ledge, not too close, of course.  No luck.

under the stone ledge
the rattlesnake’s

In my garden a garter snake is threading its way through the daisies. Might it be looking for a home, perhaps in the stone foundation of my house?  I wave my hat to shoo it away, towards my neighbour’s house. It comes to an abrupt halt and won’t budge. Taking a positive view of the situation, I realize I have a willing, live and not too dangerous model, right in my own backyard. But my camera is in the house. Should I go and get it? No. Better to stay and keep an eye on him in case he makes a dash for my cellar.

garden snake
nothing moving
but our breathing muscles

garden snake
flicking its tongue
my scent

Finally he (she?) ends the standoff and sets out in search of a more hospitable location, leaving me without a snake nursery to take care of, or a photograph.

I learn that the Massasauga Rattlesnake is a timid soul with a striking distance of less than a foot. It prefers to hoard its venom to immobilize mice not men, or women. I continue to hunt them, more boldly now, and they continue to hide from me.




Written for the Saugeen Trading Community Newsletter, Summer Reading Edition, August 2016.

under the stone ledge and garden snake/nothing moving were published in the Haiku Canada Members’ Anthology 2013 and 2014

copyright Ruth Mittelholtz 2016