A friend of mine offers many a pearl on her blog about doing walkabouts around her home in Canada. Through her many jaunts she has become familiar with many of the native animals and plants that abound in the wilderness that surrounds her. Her more recent post discusses the “do’s and dont’s” should you decide to wander your wild areas where you live. One animal she has seldom encountered is the snake, so to further enhance the joy and challenges of doing your own walkabout, I thought I would talk about snakes in this post.
Now, please don’t cringe, just in case you just did, because for all the horror stories you may have heard about these beautiful (yes, I said beautiful) creatures, they really are nothing to fear if you learn more about them. Besides being very fascinating, they provide us all a good service by controlling a lot of other creatures that, if left unchecked, would soon cause us all many problems. Come on! Do a little reading if you don’t know the value of a snake!
So, let’s say you really want to go out and about in the woods, mountains, fields or desert where you live. And, you really would prefer to avoid a snake or, at least, the poisonous ones. First off, NEVER go out on a walkabout without the proper attire especially if it is warm out. Most of us will dress for the weather, but on a walkabout, you have to dress for the whatever. Whatever might bite or scratch or trip or hurt you. Trust me, between the mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks……….
So, wear some boot type shoes and socks with pants tucked into them. Wear a long sleeved shirt; white helps when it is hot. Make sure you have some good gloves as well for any just in case moment you might decide you just have to touch something. And, some sort of headgear that will keep the hot sun, wind, rain or whatever off you and your face, neck,etc. One other very useful tool is a nice, long and sturdy walking stick. It is very useful for leaning on while traversing rugged terrain, ditches, and the like. It is handy for pushing or poking at things so YOU can keep your distance. Hopefully, not needed as such, it could be a weapon, though at the very most, it could probably only be useful to whack something. And, you don’t need to go out and buy one! Just look around outside and you probably can find one just right! And, if it works out really well, save it for the next time.
The first thing you really should do is to download some pictures of the snakes that are native to your area. Study them, get to know them. What colors and designs do they have? What shape is their head? Is their body long and thin or thick? If they have colored bands, which colors are next to which? Read further and you will learn why that is so important.
Here in our part of North Carolina, the most common venomous snakes are the copperhead and water moccasin.
I have encountered the copperhead more often. We have a LOT of ponds and creeks and plenty of woods in our neighborhood so these types of snakes are quite common. Although rattlesnakes are also native to NC, I have never heard of or seen one in this part of the state.
Once you have a decent idea of what they look like, you now know what to look for. Where not to look is the next thing you might want to ponder. In most cases, snakes will be in tall grasses, under some old wood logs or leaf piles or a pile of rocks. So you really don’t want to go moving things around with your hands just in case you get a real surprise! Use your stick! On a nice warm and sunny day, you may come across a snake “sunning” itself on a rock. Some snakes hunt during the day; others at night. Should you come upon one, just walk away. They won’t slither after you! The only time I have ever experienced an aggressive snake was, while during their mating season, a big black snake actually advanced towards me while he was on the back steps to my house. I came upon him when I opened the door and there that big boy was! I left him alone and he gradually made his way back into the woods.
One mistake I made in determining whether a snake was venomous (poisonous) or not was the misconception that they all have obvious triangle-shaped heads with jaws that jut out just above the “neck” as opposed to a rounded jaw. Well, that may be true in almost all cases, but it is not always so obvious.
Eastern Coral Snake
The coral snake is a good example of that. The eastern coral snake is native here in NC. We also have the scarlet king snake.
They both have colored bands in red and black and sometimes yellow or white (in the case of the king snake). These are two snakes that are often mistaken for one another. Of course, the old saying, “Red touches yellow, kills a fellow. Red touches black, friend of Jack” helps IF you can remember it! An easier tip (in North American ones) is that the coral snake will have a black head. Keep in mind, if you are in Asia or South America, your coral snakes may not fall into these descriptions. KNOW your area’s snakes!
However, one characteristic is their coloration. In most cases, a solid colored snake is not poisonous. But patterns are very common in a lot of non-venomous snakes, such as some varieties of garter, king or rat snakes.
Smooth green snake
So, back to one of the major points made in this post is to KNOW your local snakes.
Handling even a non-venomous snake is not a good idea. Unless you have been taught proper techniques, just don’t do it. Snakes vertebrae are very fragile, especially the ones in the “neck” area. Also, even though they may be non-venomous, they can still bite you as all snakes have teeth. On the few occasions when I have been “bitten”, it still can pack a punch. So, why was I bitten?
When I was in my twenties, I had a large variety of reptilian pets. Some of them were snakes, though none were venomous. Until I learned proper handling techniques, one of them could easily twist its body and sink their teeth into my hand or arm. I learned quickly the proper way to handle them. However, I still have been bitten again since then. Remember: All snakes do not have fangs, but they all have teeth!
Once I no longer had those pets, I continued to interact with snakes in the wild. Not to play with! Since my comfort level is good with snakes, many a neighbor has called upon me to “take care of a snake” they found in their yards or barns. Though harmless, I knew if I didn’t find the snake a new home, far enough away, it would probably end up shot or smooshed.
One horrific experience I had involved my having to kill a black snake. It was late one evening and I was sitting on my back deck. It was dark out. All of a sudden, I heard my chickens raising a commotion. Since they can’t see at night, I knew something was very wrong. I grabbed a flashlight and headed back to and into their pen. There was my rooster (and he was a big one), on the ground with a very large black snake wrapped around him. I grabbed Mr. Rooster up into my arms. He was completely immobilized as the snake was seriously wrapped around him. I slowly uncoiled the snake off of him and, as I did so, the snake started coiling around my arm. DAMN! My adrenaline and defense mechanisms were in high gear. I rushed out of the pen, and ran, snake and all, over to the lit driveway. As I ran there, i grabbed my hoe. Much to my dismay afterwards, i peeled the snake off, stood on his body with my feet and chopped its head off. So much for the snake.
Believe me, it wasn’t all that quick and easy to do because snakes really do have incredible muscles in their bodies and they can wriggle out of just about anything. Yes, I really did feel badly about having to kill him. But, with all that anger and adrenaline coursing through my veins, it’s what i felt i had to do.
Anyway, there you have it. Certainly this doesn’t cover everything you would ever want to know about snakes. Most importantly, I do not claim to be anything even resembling an expert, so take anything I said here with a grain of salt. And, depending on you, it may have piqued your interest or scared you away farther than you were to begin with. But whichever the case may be, I know my admiration and respect for snakes will continue.