Sometimes Out of Sight is Better Than Out of the Area

Following yesterday’s post in regard to the preservation of all wild animals, not just the cute and cuddly ones, Artemis had the opportunity to aid yet another less-adorable animal neighbor, and decided to share the experience.

Living in the country snakes are as common as hay fields. There are venomous, and non-venomous varieties, and both are important to the ecosystem. While cohabitation with venomous snakes might be difficult, or in some cases, not possible, keeping non-venomous snakes around is as easy as just leaving them alone. At this time of year, snakes are just starting to come out and shed their winter skin and move about. Often they can be found sunning alongside roads, or footpaths. Unfortunately, many are killed by passing cars, intentionally, or by accident. Whenever possible, snakes should simply be left alone.

They help control rodent populations, and thus also help control diseases which can be carried by fleas and/or ticks. Wonder why bubonic plague doesn’t spread like wildfire across the continent? Thank a snake. Because the plague is still found in some areas, carried by fleas and spread via contact between small animals. Animals which serve as prey for the local snake population.

Sometimes, though, a snake might show up, or attempt to move into an area where cohabitation with it is not possible. It’s important to note that snakes will return to the place where they hatched in order to lay their own eggs. So if you’ve been having “snake problems” for a long time, it’s safe to presume that the snakes have been there for generations, and you’re the one technically intruding. But if it’s a matter of having a snake just passing through in early spring, or summer, relocating–temporarily, anyway–the unwanted visitor is possible.

If the snake is venomous, call an expert. DO NOT under any circumstances attempt to capture a venomous snake alive.* You’ll end up hurt, the snake will end up dead, and no one will be satisfied with the outcome. If you wish to have a venomous snake relocated, find a local removal agency to perform the task. Remember, the snake will try to return to its own territory, so completely removing it permanently means relocating it miles and miles away.

Now, if the snake is non-venomous, getting it out of sight it is a much simpler matter. Remember, though, you’re simply moving the snake somewhere where you don’t have to see it. The snake will still be sharing your space, and this is a good thing. Most people don’t like *seeing* snakes, but if they were completely eradicated, you would be overrun by small mammals like field mice or rats.

In Artemis’s case today, a small eastern black rat snake had decided to sun itself directly beside the screen door of a friend’s porch. This is not ideal for several reasons. 1) the friend is deathly afraid of any snake 2) the friend has a dog, which will kill snakes 3) if left there, the friend would prefer the snake dead

Thus, for the safety of the snake itself, Artemis moved it far away from the house (which is situated on 40 acres with plenty of “safe” space for a snake) where the owner did not have to see it, and the snake was protected from dog attack.

When people discuss moving snakes, often time visions of reality tv shows with snake handlers leaping wildly about, pouncing on their targets flash through everyone’s mind. The reality is often more like “bend over, gently pick snake up, walk to new location, set snake down”. Remember, this is in regard to non-venomous snakes. Non-venomous snakes are, despite how they’re often described, are not aggressive. Not if one does not act aggressively toward them. You have to understand that from the snake’s perspective you are a towering giant, a threat to their life, and if you act like you’re a threat, they will defend themselves. But they–unlike humans–don’t enter a situation will ill-intent or presumptive violence.

Snakes do not like to be restrained, or dangled. Their first reaction when gently lifted is to coil around the object holding them, just as they would a tree branch. Do no attempt to control them, just allow them to hold on to you the only way they can. Move slowly, and calmly. If the snake tries to slither away, simply use your hands to collect it again. This is why using your hands is preferable to scooping a snake up with a shovel or, other artificial tool. If you are not an expert with a snake hook, you can kill or damaged them easily. Once you have the snake, simply walk to a new location, and then lower it to the ground. The snake will immediately vacate you for its natural location. Remember, you’re just moving it to where it can’t be seen, not taking it away.

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Notice in these photos that Artemis is not actually restraining the snake, but simply allowing it to use her as a “tree branch”.

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Here the snake has moved forward, again, without restraint.

Handling wild animals is not ideal. They are not pets, even when they docilely allow you to handle them. Handling them should be done as a last resort only, in situations wherein the only other option is killing the animal.

However, in the case  of non-venomous snakes, picking them up and moving them is preferable to trying to “chase” or “herd” them away. If you attempt to “shoo” a snake with a broom or stick, the snake will coil up defensively and attempt to bluff you into leaving it alone. This is because once it extends its body to slither away, it is vulnerable, and exposing its long back, providing the perfect opportunity for a predator to kill it. Thus, you’ll just find yourself in a standoff–in which the snake will not “run away” and will eventually try to bite you. Poking a snake with sticks can badly injure it, as can trying to grab it and pin it in an unyielding grip.

By removing the snake without terrorizing it, the snake will be gone from sight without conflict. However, it’s important to reiterate again, that you are sharing the world with these animals, and by moving them, you are making yourself more comfortable while also allowing the snakes to live naturally.

Here is a video of the same snake once Artemis released it. When she attempted to expedite the snake’s departure, it responded by coiling up, and mimicking a rattlesnake by vibrating its tail against dry leaves. This bluff is the only defense a non-venomous snake possesses. The next step would be to bite. While their bites can break the skin, they posses only ridges inside their jaws, which aside from possible infection, will not do anything to protect them.

Snakes–even venomous ones–are a vital part of the environment, and it’s important to do everything we can to exist alongside them peacefully. So the next time you have the chance to move a non-venomous somewhere out of sight, rather than out of area, do so gently. The world will thank you for it.

 

* If you are unsure whether the snake you see is venomous or non-venomous, it’s always best to leave the snake alone.

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