WILDLIFE WATCHING -- I've had the pleasure of seeing snakes on at least a dozen of my area hikes in the last month. Most of them were large but harmless bull snakes -- no rattles at the end of the tail -- but three were rattlers, which also are mostly harmless unless you try to play with them.
I saw the bull snakes in Riverside State Park, the Centennial Trail, Little Spokane River, Fishtrap Lake and Hog Canyon Lake.
I came across the rattlesnakes along the Snake River and at Steamboat Rock State Park. One rattler at Escure Ranch had been killed. I prefer not to kill rattlesnakes. While poisonous if provoked, they do far more good than harm.
Bull snakes, also known as gopher snakes, are among the largest and most often seen snakes in this area. It's not unusual to see them sunning along the Centennial Trail, where I once saw a red-tailed hawk swoop down and fly away with a bull snake writhing it its talons.
An alarmed bull snake sometimes tries to take on a scary rattler persona by coiling and vibrating its tail. It can even make a bit of a rattling sound without a rattle. And it's especially scary when it starts hissing.
Bull snakes and rattlers alike eat large numbers of rodents, although they also take a small toll on ducklings.