Thursday, November 13, 2008

Exercises in Compassion Part II- More than one way to kill a snake

Gordon mentioned he wants a gun for killing snakes. I want to remind him that there is more than one way to kill a snake. In general I don’t believe in killing things that don’t bother you, copperheads are the exception. Most snakes I just relocate to the far reaches of the field. They only hang around because they like to eat the rodents. This means that Gordon will have to choose between whether he has a snake infestation or a rat infestation since killing the snakes means more rats. Personally, I like rats. I don’t like it so much when they carry pestilence or when the cat bats their rotting corpses under the vacuum so I can spend weeks looking for that awful smell once they are reduced to a furry grease spot. Whenever I catch a varmint, I cross both the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers before letting them go in Maryland. Crossing two bodies of water with mice is a rule of thumb Lona taught me, when she drove the 20 miles to Upper Marlboro to release the mice she caught in her geodesic dome.

Since moving into our house two years ago I have had more than one interesting encounter with snakes. When we first inspected the attic we found it was filled with snake skins. We had the trees trimmed so it wouldn’t be so easy for them to slither out of the trees and onto the roof for sunning themselves. It seemed to help keep them out of the attic.

The trouble really happens when Brian travels. While he was off eating a rattle snake his friend bludgeoned and dried on a rock, I was having a snake of my own. I was in the downstairs bathroom washing my hands when I noticed a copperhead coiled around the showerhead! I almost called the police but I remembered that my very capable mother (who has braved the bites of a much larger copperhead) was on her way.

In the meantime I began to think of how the snake got in and how I could dispatch it. There is no good explanation for how it got in, but it could have been through the bath tub drain I suppose. Later we found that drainpipe just dumped under the foundation despite the plumbers telling us it was all hooked up.

I came up with several ideas of how to deal with it. They included:

a) Cutting its head off with a pair of brush loppers

b) Turning a can of spray air upside down and freezing it (somehow I thought I could then shatter it)

c) Trapping it under a bucket and leaving it for Brian to deal with when he got home.

Lona arrived and we chose option C. We were too afraid it would lash out at us to get close enough to freeze it or lop its head off, so I got a 6 foot long garden stake and pried it off the showerhead while Lona covered it with the pig’s water bowl. The bottom of the tub was too curved for the bowl to sit flush so we had to swap it out for a flower pot. That unfortunate reptile sat in wait for at least three days until my neighbor called to check in on me and sent her husband over to see about the snake. He picked it up using the loppers as tongs and took it outside and dispatched it. This concluded that adventure.

Two months later, Brian went away to Iraq for 9 weeks I was stepping outside one morning and there was another small copperhead coiled up on the doormat, right where my foot was about to land. My intrepid neighbor, Smitty took care of that one too by bashing its head in. I owe him such a debt.

the next time Brian went away I only saw one wrapped around the porch foundation. I implemented an aggressive regimen of naphtha (moth balls) to try to deter the copperheads as I am afraid my dogs or pig will get bitten one day. The regimen wasn’t having the desired effect. This spring, Brian was away in the Mid East again. It had been raining cats and dogs all day. When I came home I immediately noticed the house smelled off. I looked in the basement and it had several inches of water on the floor.

After I stood in the water like an idiot to unplug all the power cords, I called Brian’s dad for advice. He suggested I try to get to downspouts to dump farther from the house. I went out to clean the leaves over from under the downspout and lay down a shower curtain. What did I pull out of the leaves but a huge black snake! I left well enough alone with the snake and the sump pump finally started to make a dent in the basement flood. However, when I went outside in the morning, the snake was dead. I felt bad; it must have been from drowning or the naphtha. I had seen the snake around before and we never bothered each other. He was just here for the mice.


Gordon said...

I would seldom if ever kill a black snake. It is the copperheads I go after and there are plenty around here. The trouble with the bucket trick, is that sometimes they move away faster than you. The shotgun can catch them though.

I didn't know they have copperheads up your way.

Gordon said...

Your releases into Maryland probably accounts for all the varmints in PG county.