Monday, September 24, 2012

Late night guests

A few weeks ago, we were reminded that the scenic paradise of Wild Oak isn’t all stunning sunsets and purple mountain peaks. As I was straightening up the house around 11 pm, I spotted this making its way across my kitchen floor.

I might have thought that it would take a moment for my brain to process the absurdity of this situation, but no. I instantly knew it was a real, live snake. And I screamed. Erik, thinking it must be ‘just’ another scorpion sighting, rushed in and then we and the snake stopped frozen, staring at each other. Everyone at a loss for what do next. I tried to calculate how far away we needed to be to be out of the reptile’s striking distance, and hoped that he wouldn’t disappear into a tiny crevice that we couldn’t retrieve him from.

Thankfully we subscribe to the security service for our neighborhood, whose officers include ‘snake calls’ in their scope of duty. So we gingerly inched over to pick up the phone and call the on-duty officer, Matt.

As we waited for Matt to arrive, we caught a few photos and guessed at the young snake’s species. It’s harder to tell on such a young snake if the head has a rounded bullsnake profile or the more triangular rattlesnake one. The two species have similar markings and rattlesnakes are born without rattles. Either way I knew he couldn’t stay overnight.

Finally, Matt arrived with a snake catching stick and his small-sized snake bucket. He wasn’t sure if it was a bull snake or black-tail rattlesnake, which ticketed our guest for export to open space miles away. When he grabbed the snake with his stick, the reptile let out a loud and hair-raising ‘HIISSSS!!!!!’ but that didn’t stop Matt from stowing him in the snake bucket.

With gratitude and relief we said goodbye to Matt and the potential black tail, ‘Hissy’, so thankful that we didn’t have to drive miles in the dark with a cranky snake in the back seat.

Of course we were on high alert after Hissy’s departure, but we didn’t actually expect to see another snake indoors. Our neighbors assured us that snakes are very rare. And in the midst of normal home life, Hissy felt like a fading dream. But then, the very next evening, I was walking back to the kitchen around 11 pm and again, lying in my path, was a snake.

We called Matt and kept our eyes on Hissy’s brother while we awaited our rescuer with the special snake stick. We had researched the difference between bull snakes and rattlers, and this one’s head seemed more rounded and we didn’t see the beginnings of a rattle on his tail. The final proof was an eyeball check. Instead of getting cheek-to-cheek with our snake, we zoomed in on the photos we’d taken. Thanks to digital technology, we could firmly conclude that the round-pupiled reptile was a non-venomous bull snake (and that his sibling the previous night must have been too). Bull snakes are constrictors, valued for controlling mice populations and keeping rattlesnakes away (surprisingly, they’re able to kill rattlesnakes and protect their turf aggressively).

So after some discussion, we decided to have Matt release ‘Bully’ the bull snake in our backyard. We took extra measures to seal up the house, and are hoping that Bully will be very happy outside, protecting us from potentially plague-carrying mice and rattlesnakes alike. We haven’t seen him since but keep our eyes peeled for Bully, our automatic mousetrap.

{I didn’t want to overload our cutie-kid-themed blog with snake pics so there’s only one in this post. If you want to see more mugs and even a few videos of Hissy and Bully, click here.}

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