When we moved on this place 5 years ago, I hoped that eradicating the property of large weeds and tall grasses would cause a decline in the snake population. After about two years of diligent work, weeds gave way to beautiful Bermuda grass, and all around the house bright flowers and shrubbery brought color and depth to the landscape. I am not sure it deterred the snakes though. If anything, I was more likely to spot them, always panicked of their presence. In time though, I became an expert at identifying them and educated myself about them. This was an improvement over my initial girly reaction to scream and run… assuming everything that moved in the grass was a snake!
The year before we moved here was the worst of my Ophidiophobia (snakephobia) actually. The property had been overgrown for decades and snakes were abundant. I never knew what kind of snake I was seeing so I assumed they were all my enemies and all poisonous. As FD and I worked clearing the area and tearing down structures, moving wood and cutting trees, I found myself with “snake on the brain”. Any movement, snake or otherwise, prompted a blood-curdling scream and catapulted my legs into “run like hell” mode. FD was good to point out the only species I really had to look out for was the Copperhead. A bite probably wouldn’t kill a person, but it could make someone mighty sick. The good thing about a Copperhead is they are easy to spot. I find their markings beautiful, and most of the time they are shy. They slither away and avoid confrontation unless, of course, they are provoked. FD informed me all other snakes around here made for excellent rodent control. My snake wrangler was telling me nicely that he was not going to kill every snake we saw.
After living here a couple of years I decided snakes were not so scary though I still did not appreciate confrontation with one. A gasp might escape my mouth, but I would take note to observe the specimen, then quickly go inside to the computer to reference Oklahoma Snakes, http://www.oksnakes.org/index.cfm?id=1. There I would locate the snake by looking at images and descriptions, sometimes habits, movement, or location, and decide just what I was dealing with. Sometimes I decided I did not want a particular snake around, especially if it was too big. That’s when the snake wrangler was dispatched to relocate the intruder.
I am always learning something new about these misunderstood creatures. Two years ago I was working in the flower beds when the orange stripe of a garter snake caught my eye… only something was strange. Was that a toad leg? Sure enough, my friend Mr. Toad had met an untimely death sometime earlier. Mr. Snake had gobbled up all but a leg. I found it a tad disturbing since I had just greeted Mr. Toad about an hour before. I had no idea snakes ate toads. I didn’t like the idea at all, but that is the way of nature. Another time I was collecting eggs in the chicken barn and discovered a bull snake slinking around in a nest. FD caught and killed the egg thief. Hanging upside down, out glopped two crushed and not yet digested eggs from the mouth of the black serpent. Normally, we only kill venomous snakes, but an egg thief will get the ax as well! Our motto is: Once a thief, always a thief! This year I found myself on the lookout for a Coachwhip snake that made his home along the barn in the cannas. The first time I saw him he scared the buhjeezus out of me! He was long and thick in the middle and moved so fast I barely got a good look at him. Going to my trusty reference, OK Snakes, there he was. I took the time to learn all about him and decided I would just have to make a lot of noise on approaching his area. Of course he was usually so busy sunning himself in an open spot that often I surprised him before he had a chance to avoid me! Daisy shared the same fenced quarters in which Mr. Coachwhip resided, so I saw him quite often. I can’t say I ever learned to like him, but I did appreciate his ability to keep varmints away from the barn. I guess he got tired of avoiding us because after a few weeks we didn’t see him anymore.
Daisy was too little back then to worry about a snake. These days, however, instinct has kicked in. A few days ago FD and I ventured out to give Daisy her afternoon snack of celery and a sweet potato when I discovered a small snake along the pen fence. FD found it to be alive, but Daisy had hoofed it enough that the vertebra were broken in several places and it was paralyzed a couple of inches below the head. It turned out to be a juvenile rat snake, commonly found here. I wondered to myself how many times this fall I had laid in the grass, napping with Daisy. I cannot say I wouldn’t have screamed or jumped had I shared a grassy bed with a snake, but I wouldn’t have feared it like I used to. Perhaps time and exposure helped me with my phobia. Learning about snakes and their place in the ecosystem helped me to appreciate their presence on this property.
I doubt anyone will ever find me handling a snake on purpose (I have picked them up unknowingly!) but I do take a broom after them if they happen to be in a flower bed I’m working in. Of course, I also won’t hesitate to call the snake wrangler into the chicken barn if we have an egg thief or if we need a snake relocated! And I suppose now, if Daisy happens to see a slithering snake moving a little too slow, she will use those razor-sharp hooves to stomp it to death. She will not care if it helps to control the rodent population. She will act on instinct to protect herself. Perhaps a crow or other bird of prey will happen along and have it for lunch. I don’t like the thought of that either, but that is the way of nature…
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…