Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wild Kingdom

The reptiles have been on the move the last two weeks. The other day I saw a snake that had been run over lying dead in the middle of the street on my way to the post office to pick up the mail. Then the other night I heard Duke barking outside and since it sounded like his "there is a dog out here so I am going to bark at him" bark I ignored him. Then I noticed he was barking longer and louder than normal so I looked out the kitchen window.

Duke was standing under the ornamental pear barking at what seemed to be something in the yard. Hoping it was not a skunk I went into the garage and opened the outer door. By the time I got the door up Duke had moved to the far side of the driveway and was now barking at a point just to the right of where I was standing. I looked down and about one foot over and two feet up from me lay a coiled Rattlesnake with its head up, fangs bared, and tail vibrating. This snake was huge with a middle section about double the thickness of a garden hose.

Duke was keeping his distance from the snake and at that moment I wished I had too. As I stared at him a number of thoughts raced though my brain,
If I move will it strike What about Duke If I don't move will Duke try to get closer to it What if it crawls into the garage What if it crawls back into the grass It will be harder to find if it does so Can I get past it without it striking me and get to Duke to put him in the house (Bob, there's a rattlesnake out here!) What if I don't move Is it close enough to hit me if it does decides to strike?

My husband was in the bathroom and had just stepped out of the shower when I yelled at him. He yelled back to get Duke away from the snake just as I started making a wide circle around the snake on my way to Duke. When I tried to pull Duke away by his collar he would not let me and stood his ground focused intently on the snake. I finally had to pick him up around the middle and carry him to back into the house and shut him in. My husband yelled out the bathroom window again telling me to get the lid off the garbage can we used to store birdseed in and drop it on top of the snake.

OK, that was the last thing I wanted to do and I said I would wait for him. No, he insisted I do it before the snake moved back into the grass. I wasn't worried about the snake moving back into the grass, I was worried about the snake coming into the garage after me. I stood rooted in indecision for a few seconds and then turned and walked over to the birdseed can and removed the lid from it. Turning my back on the snake had been agony and when I turned around again I was almost relieved to find the snake in the same spot.

I held the lid in front of me, "How do I do this," I yelled.

"Just keep the lid between you and the snake and then drop it on him," my husband yelled back.

Keeping the lid as far out in front of me as I could I moved toward the snake. Trying to do something that my brain was telling me was very dangerous was hell. As I moved forward I could feel my muscles resisting the forward movement of my body. I had to force myself to overcome the resistance my brain's fear was creating. Finally I knew I was close enough to drop the lid on the snake and I kind of pushed the lid out as I let go of it. It landed on top of the snake and made a banging noise as it came in contact with the cement. The snake was not happy under the lid and banged against it but could not lift it, thank god. That is when my husband showed up and I told him that as I let go of the trashcan lid I saw the snake's tail and thought it might be a Bullsnake.

Bullsnakes are nonpoisonous snakes which look enough like Rattlesnakes to be mistaken for them. They also pretend to be Rattlesnakes by vibrating their tails and making a hissing noise with their mouth. That hissing sound is very much like the sound a Rattlesnake's tail makes. My husband decided to treat the snake as if it was a Rattler until we were sure and got a broom and the empty birdseed trashcan. He laid the can on its side and then removed the lid from the snake.

That was one mad snake. When my husband moved the broom close to the snake it threw its body and head forward and then coiled back up. Using the broom, my husband pushed the snake into the trash can and then stood the can back up and put the lid on. By that time he had got a good look at the snake's tail and agreed that it was a Bullsnake. He then put the trashcan in the back of our truck and took the snake out of town and let it go.

I felt kind of foolish being terrified by a Bullsnake but at the same time I knew it was safer to treat it as something dangerous that to assume it was not.

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