Snake Eyes

It’s hard to love a snake.

I know, all creatures great and small, 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. 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 person who can name every living thing you encounter when you walk with her in the woods.

We do have water snakes though, and they look enough like water moccasins to get your attention, ¬†and – 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.

Water snakes are spring-loaded, and they can jump an unbelievable distance. I saw one jump about 10 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. The poor kid screamed and jumped into the river – with the snake. When he realized what he had done, I swear that kid walked on water. I don’t blame him.

We have a water snake living in our frog pond. When you look at her head, there is no doubt that she is non-poisonous. She looks almost sweet, with a ghost of a Mona Lisa smile, and she has pretty eyes. I named her Hazel.

While Hazel’s visage is very becoming, if you come upon any other part of her unawares, there is a visceral reaction. The grab in the gut, the raised hairs on the arms and the tingle in the spine all shout, “Snake!” We’re trying to get used to each other, since the pond is right next to the garden. But even when I know it’s her with the pretty eyes, those intimidating markings and that serpentine slither do not inspire a warm cozy feeling.

The frogs in our pond are not very happy with Hazel as a neighbor. Some of them have moved to another nearby pond, and the ones that remain are not nearly as mouthy as they once were. There were far too many frogs in that pond for the available food supply, but thanks to Hazel, there is a better balance now. Nature always seeks balance, if we get out of the way and allow it to happen.

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