Wednesday, April 14, 2010

First Snake of the Season

I say 'first snake of the season' because there will be more. Luckily, the snake is a Texas Rat snake. Often called a Chicken snake because of their tendency to get into chicken coops and eat eggs (hey, easy prey!) and chicks if they happen to be around. While Rat snakes can push 6ft. long, their mouths can't quite manage a full grown chicken.

BUT, speaking of chicks, last night I was getting my chicks one step closer to moving in with the big chickens. With Tom's help, I moved their little coop (a rabbit hutch) into the main chicken run area. They spend their entire day with the other chickens, but sleep in separate quarters for now. The fencing on the rabbit hutch is not small enough to keep snakes out completely. That's why I was a bit disturbed when I looked up to see a snake curled up, napping, in the main chicken coop.


As always, I determined what sort of snake I was dealing with. "Yellowish belly, brightly colored scales, splotchy/circular patterned back, rounded head, perfectly round eyes----Rat snake. Harmless."
I went and found a bucket with a lid, and located my snake stick from last year (a branch with a V in it). I should have gotten gloves right away, but didn't think about it. My job would have gone much more quickly if I had. My job, by the way, is to move the snake--not kill it. If it weren't for their egg eating tendency, I'd let this one stay. They are fabulous at eating rats and mice--thus the name, Rat Snake.

The plan--harass it and it would come down. Pin it behind its head with my magic stick, pick it up and place it in the bucket. End of story.
The snake had other plans. An hour later (with gloves), I had harassed it enough that it unraveled and I was forced to grab it without help of my stick and pull it out of its hiding place. The gloves were to protect my hands from the obvious--getting bitten. While not venomous, they get pretty angry when they have been poked at for an hour. They do not have fangs. Instead, they have two rows of very sharp, tiny teeth. They kill their prey by constriction. The teeth merely aid them in holding onto it.

The constriction part is what made extracting this snake all the more difficult. They are strong. Very strong. It DID NOT want to be captured. I had to inch it along without really pulling. I didn't want to hurt it. After about 10 minutes, I'd pulled all 6 ft. of it down out of the ceiling and placed it in my bucket.
Off we went, snake and I. I found it a lovely spot near a brush pile and a creek. I hope it will be very happy eating rats and mice and frogs and all other manner of small prey. I'd like to keep my eggs and my chicks, thank you.
Until the next snake.....
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Because I'm nerdy this way, I did a little more reading on my snakey visitor.
Seems most herpetologists (reptile folks) think Rat Snakes are very aggressive. Yes, this one was aggressive, but I spent an hour ticking it off. When I let it go, it was more than happy to bid me goodbye.
On the other hand, when I had a similar situation happen with a Western Coachwhip snake, it challenged me after I released it. Actually came at me and struck at me a couple times. So, in my opinion, Coachwhips are more aggressive than Rat snakes.
The End.

10 comments:

  1. Oh you brave woman! This really is a beautiful looking snake: it took me years of Crocodile hunter TV shows to be able to look at a snake (Steve Irwin was an eye and heart opener). I am glad you relocated it instead of killing it.
    PS: thanks for stopping by:)

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  2. I just love reading your snake stories! I'm with you - we don't harm non-venomous snakes, and although this area does have venomous snakes, they stay hidden pretty well. I may feel differently if I was battling one that was a habitual chick eater, but we've not faced that yet - and I hope we never do! You're a tough cookie CeeCee - and I love it!

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  3. What a beautiful snake!!! You are brave to take care of it yourself, many women wouldn't have done that!

    When I was first married I caught an injured rat snake & gave it to my husband. It had been run over by a car. We were young & crazy 20-somethings, we kept the rat snake with our other snake, which was a boa named Ophelia. I don't remember what we named the rat snake. It survived it's injury, we determined it was a female, she ate the same food as the boa (mice), and we kept her quite a few months before letting her loose in the deep woods. She eventually became very friendly & wasn't mean at all before we let her loose.

    I luckily haven't seen any snakes at my current house, I wouldn't want them around my chickens, either! (And I don't have anymore snakes inside, either! That was just a phase we went thru!)
    ~Lynn

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  4. What a great post! You know I love the snakes!!
    Thank you for your comment. I got right on the phone to the vet, who confirmed it (I left a message for you on my blog too) and I have meds waiting for LD as soon as Wade can get up there to get them today. The vet thinks he'll be fine, since it's been caught so early and he shows no other symptoms. So thank you so much!!! You saved his little life!!

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  5. EW! Just the pictures made me get the creepy crawlies! Glad it's you andnot me!

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  6. I just posted a picture of one of these guys about three or so days ago on my blog...uggggg he was in our chicken pen...he ate all the eggs too! geesh...

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  7. I have yet to see a snake here. I know I've been lucky!

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  8. How did I miss all of these posts?! OMG!!!

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  9. 55" of snow is worth every snake we don't have in Maine!

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  10. Eeeeeeeeekkkkkk!!!!! I'm not fond of snakes, but like you we don't harm the non-venomous snakes. They still make my skin crawl, though.

    You have a lot of patience to work with that snake for such a long time when it was being quite stubborn and feisty. CeeCee the Snake Whisperer. :-)


    ~Lisa

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