Monday, February 7, 2011

seen at the country house

I was standing at the work table in the big room looking out the open back door...yes, that was me complaining about the freezing weather here last week and yes, two days later it was in the upper 60s and I had the doors and windows open...and I noticed the cat sitting outside watching some thing on the ground and every now and then giving it a tentative whack with her paw. So, OK, I thought, what little creature is she terrorizing now, and I walked out to see what it was and if it needed rescuing.

Curled up at her feet was a small snake (I say small, it was about 18” long I think), head up and mouth open. The first thing I did was grab up the cat and throw her inside. The next thing I did was try to identify the snake. It was dark brown and light brown and had a distinctive pattern. We have harmless rat snakes that are two tone brown and I've seen several of those around here. I was trying to remember what my sister had told me about poisonous snakes in Texas, that there are really only four different kinds..rattlesnakes, water moccasins (also known as cottonmouths), coral snakes and copperheads...and that the easiest way to determine if it is one of those is to look at the shape of it's head, that all the poisonous snakes in Texas have spade shaped heads.

'Hey Marc, does this look like a spade shaped head to you?' I called out as I was zeroing in with the macro on my camera. 'You think this is a rat snake or a copperhead?'

A quick look in the 50 Common Reptiles And Amphibians was inconclusive. On to a google image search. 'Oh,' he says, 'it might be a copperhead.' Um, yep. I'd say it's a copperhead all right.

I didn't want to kill it. I had felt really guilty about killing the 2' coral snake two years ago and copperheads have the least toxic venom of the venomous snakes, so I grabbed up a small bucket and a piece of cardboard and a stick and maneuvered it into the bucket and carted it to the far side of my neighbor's property and let it go in the wild space.

And where exactly was this snake? Where I have found almost every snake I have seen out here...about 10' from my back door.

* Well now, upon further investigation it might not have been copperhead after all, perhaps just a harmless rat snake. The markings were pretty irregular instead of the distinct 'hourglass' shape that copperheads have. These two snakes are often confused.

* OK, definitely a rat snake. A rat snake has round pupils and a copperhead has elliptical pupils like a cat's.


  1. ~shiver~

    We had a similar experience out here in the Boonies, and have pictures as well.

    I may borrow your idea and blog about our experience someday, too.

    I'm so glad your kitty is OK.

    And, as to letting Sneaky Snake live?

    Well, in my opinion, some things just need dyin'.

  2. I'm glad you didn't kill it - but surprised it was out and about in the temperatures you have been complaining about - in Hong Kong and Cape Town the snakes used to hibernate during winter ... surely they must do in Texas??

  3. Ewwwwwwwwwwww!!! I hate snakes.

    You're so good to have spared its life, though. Good karma.

    Great pics!

  4. Good for you, Ellen! Snakes are awesome, and only attack when threatened. (What would you do if you had no arms and legs and something threatened you - bite!) I found a 1 foot garter snake about a foot from my front door a few days ago. It was a warmish day but I'm sure (s)he went back into hibernation.

  5. I'm glad you didn't kill him.

  6. Yuck !!!

    I would have tried to kill it while screaming of course ...

  7. Oh my goodness....I thought those creatures were dormant during this time of year....but then I've thought (assumed) alot through the years that has gotten me into trouble. Ick, ick, ick, I wouldn't have had a clue what kind of snake it was. The Olde Bagg, Linda

  8. You sound so calm - I think I'd be writing this post in all caps. Heh.

  9. I'm glad the snake is still alive. I hate killing anything.
    I admire you for staying so calm about it.

  10. ahhh... snake.. only its crawl frightens me..then to see it even in pics makes my heart out...
    U r so calm and brave.. :)

  11. Never a dull moment here! I'm glad your cat is okay, and kudos to you for sparing the snake's life. Wouldn't it help control the small rodent population, mice and such?

  12. Ohhh.. I don't like snakes.. but at the same time, I'm really glad you gave him his freedom, and that no harm came to your cat.

  13. I have a live and let live philosophy about snakes, although I've no great fondness for them.

    You do sound very calm indeed and you have my admiration for that. There's just an instinctive reaction towards threats, isn't there? Sounds like you have to "get everyone safe and assess" "cooler heads will prevail" reaction.

    I don't know how I'd react to a snake, it's been years since one took me unaware (the ones I've seen in recent years were a polite distance away).

    Not that terribly long ago my husband was out running with the dog. She ran ahead a bit and he rounded the corner to see the dog examining a rattle snake.

    Evidently his response system runs more towards the "Beat it about the head until you are perfectly certain it can't kill your dog!" reaction because he'd hefted a rock to charge, screamed at the and had made great strides towards the beastie when he realized it was already long dead.

    If you ever need someone to kick the butt (wherever that may reside) of a dead snake? I know the guy for the job.

  14. well the poor thing was obviously more scared than any of us. it just wanted to be left alone. it was only trying to protect itself from the fluffed up kitty so even if it did try to strike her all it got was air. believe me, if it had been a rattler or a water moccasin I'd have been back peddling so fast i'd have been a blur. those guys are just plain mean and aggressive.

    I don't like to kill things, especially things that are doing no harm. the potential to do harm is not just cause.

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  16. OK, definitely a rat snake. I edited the post. It's the eyes.

  17. So glad YOU are doing the live research for us. We'll take your word for it.

  18. I'm terrified of snakes and rats :)!

  19. In our parts the garter snake is the most common without those spots or shape of head. Our only rattler is the Mississauga Rattler. You provide a wonderful portrait.

  20. I don't like spiders and snakes...


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.