Saturday, May 7, 2011

Snake Charming

In the timeless words of Indiana Jones, “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” Fair warning – I’m telling snake stories, so if you can’t abide the things, now would be a good time to check out someone else’s blog!

I have to agree with the intrepid archeologist on this score. I hate snakes. Having been born and raised in Texas, I know about snakes. They are a way of life there. You grow up knowing the slimy critters are likely to be around. They’re in the brush, in the rivers and lakes, and sometimes in your yard. Many years ago, we moved to Southern California where there are no snakes in the water, mainly because there is no water, but rattlesnakes abound elsewhere. I didn’t grow anymore fond of snakes there. Then we moved to New Jersey, and one would think snakes wouldn’t be a problem, and for the most part, they aren’t. Except today, I came across one.

It isn’t the first snake I’ve seen since I’ve lived here, but it was the most worrisome. The others I’ve seen have been of the harmless type – if you don’t count almost causing me to have a heart attack. This morning, I decided to clean the pool enclosure. Every fall we cover the pool and put away the toys and furniture until the weather is once again conducive to swimming. This means every spring someone (me) has to remove all the leaves and branches that have fallen onto the cover and mounded around the fence. Other than being time consuming and work, it usually isn’t a problem.

I was minding my own business – leaf raking – when something slithered beneath the leaves I’d just turned. At first, I thought it was a millipede as I’ve seen some of those around here. Then I looked closer.
My heart skipped into overdrive and I jerked away, scanning for escape routes. My options were: 1) Climb the fence and run through the woods. 2) Go backwards and run completely around the pool. 3) Test the manufacturers claim that the pool cover could support the weight of an elephant.

I gave serious thought to option 3, especially if this thing tried to bite more than my leaf rake, which it did try to do. The sum total of my defensive capabilities was a rake, and an old one at that. Running held a lot of appeal, but if I did that I’d never know where the snake went, and there were still plenty of leaves around the pool for it to seek refuge under. Leaves I still had to remove. I wasn’t about the let the thing out of my sight.

I poked at it a few times with the rake, hoping it would get the message and go away. Harmless snakes take the hint. They know they are outmatched and flee. This one did not. Not a good sign. After a bit of a jousting match – I poked – the snake lunged open mouthed – I called it a draw and moved far enough away that I’d have a head start if it came my way, and close enough I could see where it went, if it decided to leave. After a while, the darn thing decided to find another place to hide, thankfully beyond the pool fence.

Once it uncoiled, I saw that it was about a foot long, not huge, but scary all the same. I was glad it left, but not so glad to see it slunk off in the general direction of an area I’d been tromping around in just a few days ago armed with nothing more than a bow saw. That area is now designated as protected, and will from now on be allowed to grow without human interference – unless that human is someone other than me.

I did learn something today – other than that we do have rattlesnakes in New Jersey. Snow shovels make excellent long handled leaf scoops! Necessity is the mother of invention.


  1. Yikes Roz! The little ones are the most dangerous. Glad it didn't get you.

    If I lived closer, you could have called me and I would have come and shot it.

  2. Thanks Kathy! I appreciate the thought!


  3. My mother in law stepped over a log and stepped on a rattlesnake while hiking in the PA forests and was bitten. Her leg swelled up huge, and they gave her an anti-venom. I shudder to think that could have been one of my kids! They were hiking the same woods the day before!

    You're braver than I am. I would have tucked tail and run!

  4. I wasn't about to let it out of my sight until I knew where it went. I didn't want to meet up with it again with the next batch of leaves!
    So sorry your mother went through that. The NJ dept. of wildlife (or whatever it's called) says there are no reported deaths from rattlesnake bites in NJ. I'm sure that's because those deaths were reported as heart attacks!!


  5. I nearly stepped on a baby gopher snake in 1994. Being the good kindergarten teacher I was at the time, I 'saved' it from sure squishing (it was mid sidewalk) and have ever since been its mama. Many years of kid-letets have left class saucer- eyed after the day each spring we discussed reptiles (no they are NOT slimy--that would be and their introduction to beautiful 'Henry' as I pulled him from my pocket mid-reptilian discussion. Yes--he looks much ike a rattler. Yes--he rattles his tail to frighten off predators (and people). No--he is not slimy, but smooth, dry with a glorious brown and tan pattern/ pearlescent belly that shimmers and black 'mask' about his eyes.

    Only those carefully 'taught' by adults were afraid. The others were, as all young children, curious and 'oh wow-ing'. Henry was a great teacher demonstrating the difference between a poisonous and non poisonous variety of snake. They were admonished to never touch a snake in the wild, but to appreciate them for the small mammilian population controllers they are. (Kinda like another much maligned critter--the spider)

    Glad you survived the encounter--smart you, not getting too close. :)

    Christine London