02 November 2009

Man-Eating Reptile

You know you're an Australian when you see a black reptile with yellow spots in your garden and freak in the expert knowledge that it simply must be deadly poisonous.

This is what happened to me today.

All day I've been admiring how quickly Autumn is turning the leaves. We haven't experienced Piemonte in this season before and we are simply overcome with the beauty of the colours.

Unfortunately, Autumn also brings days of fog and rain and today was one of those days.

This afternoon, I was walking from the laundry to the boiler room (to hang up our washing), generally dreaming and minding my own business, when my eyes rested on a black and yellow leaf.

But this 'leaf' was not like the other leaves. It was too shiny, too perfect, too bright. I kept looking at it and within seconds I had decided that it was a snake. I leaned closer to see if it had legs. It did. Thankfully.

I called Stu over. He had been loading wood into the boiler room fire box to create the hot water to heat our radiators (and dry our washing). He marvelled at the 'leaf' for a few short seconds before he also panicked that it was a snake. I told him to calm down. It had legs.

While Stu watched it, I dashed over to the rustico to get the camera and was able to take a few photos as it laboured slowly up our embankment and under our pizza oven.

As you can imagine, one of my main priorities this evening was to identify what manner of deadly animal we now needed to brace ourselves against! Apparently our 'leaf' (also known as 'snake') is a Fire Salamander, a harmless lizard common in European woodlands. It is mostly active at night but also on rainy days, it can live up to 50 years and needs small clean brooks in order to survive and breed.

We had always hoped that the environment in our little valley was clean and pure. We already knew that the lichen growing on our trees indicated good air quality. But the discovery of this little reptile and the fact that it needs a healthy environment to thrive now confirms our hopes...

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