In addition to all the various fauna that comes around Nogglestead, including but not limited to armadillos, skunks, raccoons, opossums, and whatnot, we have some reptilian friends about, too, mostly skinks and snakes, who sometimes find their way through holes in the foundation to roam our family room. Briefly. Until our elderly cat gets them.
Well, he doesn’t always get them. One night recently, I was watching a Steven Seagal movie when I heard some hissing from behind me. My two cats were facing off on a very agitated snake on my family room floor. You know, the one we routinely cross barefooted. I called my wife, not so much to handle the snake but to keep the cats back while I…. what? Lopped its head off on the carpeting? That’s SOP, but it would have involved a lot of mess, so I sought an alternative form of treatment, and my poor wife couldn’t see the spectacle, since she was on the phone working at 8pm on a Friday night (!).
So I grabbed an empty clear bin and its lid and managed to snatch the agitated snake half in the bin. This did not calm the snake, but I did get a chance to look closely for fangs. Nothing. So we got that going for us. I opened the back door and threw the snake into the night.
Yeah, I know, I could have been more manly by grabbing the snake by its tail all Steve Irwin-like or even by watching a more appropriate Escape from New York when the incident occurred. However.
At any rate, the other day, my beautiful wife spotted the fellow or its ilk on the deck in the sun:
So it gave me a chance to try to identify the snake. It looks to be a hatchling black rat snake, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation Web site:
Well, all right, this guy goes on the list with all the garter snakes and striped snakes I’ve seen around here. But copperheads are native to the region, too:
The Missouri DoC even offers a pamphlet entitled Missouri Copperheads: They’re Your Friend. They Love You. Please, Put Down The Hoe (PDF). All right, I might have funnin’ed on that subtitle, but not by much. The real subtitle is “They Are Vital To The Natural Scene. They Rarely Bite. They Never Kill”.
It has a nice section about living with the little pit viper, like it’s an episode of Friends and you and this poisonous creature are going to share repartee about personal relationships in the coffee shop. Well, no, it’s tips about leaving them alone.
You know what the Nogglestead policy on deadly creatures is? Hoe, hut! I’ve got children wandering around here, and I can’t chance letting that little rascal slither out of my sight to pop up later with its feline-shaped pupils staring at one of them. Particularly if it’s near the house.
Does that make me a bad, bad man? Copperheads have a lot of acreage out there to roam about happily having a collective negative impact on wildlife in many areas, killing ground-nesting birds, fledgling songbirds and small mammals. I don’t want them on mine.
The MO DoC explains that they rarely bite. Be that as it may, I know someone who has been bitten by a copperhead in the last year (while camping). Just for fun, find out how much antivenom costs and whether your insurance company fully covers it. I’d recommend you do it just for fun and not based on need, or you might walk into an antivenom shortage.