It’s hard to love a snake.
I know, all creatures great and small and all that, but even though I am a snake supporter, I have to admit that there is something very snaky about a snake.
I had a pet King Snake in college. (It was just a phase.) I’ve captured beneficial snakes and brought them to the farm, and I’ve relocated other snakes. My official snake policy on the farm is “live and let live.” In fact, we have the same policy for all the creatures that share this space.
Except for Copperheads. Copperhead behavior and puppy behavior is not compatible. I’d be embarrassed to tell you what I spent at the vet once because of a copperhead. Copperheads just won’t get out of the way. They “bow up” and stand their ground and wait for you or one of your dogs to step on them. “Go ahead. Step on me. I dare you. I was here first and I’m not moving.” I don’t relocate Copperheads, but I do relocate parts of Copperheads.
Rattlesnakes? No problem. We have co-existed here with timber rattlers for decades. Rattlesnakes are thoughtful enough to alert you to their presence; otherwise they are good at getting out of the way.
Snakes are just too beneficial to disrespect. They earn their keep in mice alone, and the only cost to me is watching where I put my feet. We could all use an occasional reminder to watch where we put our feet.
We don’t have water moccasins here in the North Georgia Mountains. Some people will argue with that, but I’ve never seen one, and the biologist for our Conservation Easement says that this area is outside their range. I’ll take the word of the scientist over the guy who runs over every snake he sees in the road. You know the type.
We do have water snakes here, and they look so much like water moccasins they really get your attention. They are extremely snaky. They can also be aggressive. They like to jump out of a bush and into the water when you’re trout fishing. I think it amuses them to wait until the last minute when you’re almost directly under them. Sometimes they even like to see what kind of gear you have in your boat.
Water snakes are spring-loaded, and they can jump an unbelievable distance. I saw one jump about 15 feet into the Chattooga River. The kid who disturbed him was in a canoe and decided to float over to a rock face and investigate a hole. The snake cleared his face by about 3 inches.
Fear makes you do illogical things, and the poor kid screamed and jumped into the river – with the snake. When he realized what he had done, I swear he walked on water trying to get out. He wasn’t a great swimmer, and with his life jacket on he churned the water in little circles like whipping eggs into meringue. I don’t think he ever bathed again, and the snake left the river and moved to the desert.
We once had a water snake living in our frog pond. When you looked at her head, there was no doubt that she was non-poisonous. She looked almost sweet, with a ghost of a Mona Lisa smile, and she had pretty eyes. I named her Hazel.
Though Hazel’s visage was very becoming, any time you happened upon her there was a visceral reaction. The grab in the gut, the raised hairs on the arms and the tingle in the spine all shouted, “Snake!”
We eventually got used to each other, since the pond is right next to the garden. But even when I knew it was only her with the pretty eyes, those intimidating markings and that serpentine slither did not inspire a warm, cozy feeling.
The frogs in our pond were not very happy with Hazel as a neighbor. Some of them moved to another nearby pond, and the ones that remained were not nearly as mouthy as they once were. There were far too many frogs in that pond for the available food supply, but Hazel provided for a better balance. Nature always seeks balance if we get out of the way and allow it to happen. Just watch where you put your feet.