There’s a snake in the barn

“Uh Mom, there’s a snake in the barn.”

Not what you want to hear on a busy Saturday afternoon. Truthfully not something you want to hear anytime ever. But at my house this sort of thing isn’t all that unusual.

So on a hot summer afternoon Dman and I dutifully trudged into the barn, hoping for a mistake. Snake in the BarnAfter all, there are a lot of things that could be mistaken for a snake. A length of rope or a hose. I’ve even seen a stray vine find a way in and grow a few inches. Luck however was not with us and there, coiled up on the skinny side of a 2 x 4 was this…

Yup, that’s a snake alright!

After a good long discussion (because when you have people standing around everyone has an opinion on how to handle the crisis) during which the snake stuck around, tongue flickering in and out, watching us watch him, the suggestions were as follows:

1. Ignore it

2. Kill it

3. Keep it for a pet

4. Relocate it

Number 1:   I think we can all agree it’s really hard to ignore a snake, even a small one. I’m not an expert and we couldn’t figure out what type it was. It looked like a python. If it was an exotic, that’s a problem. Granted it wouldn’t survive our winter but it meant someone was careless. They might lose something else, something a lot more dangerous.

Number 2:   I don’t have a problem killing an animal if I need to, but it was really hard to justify this one. Without knowing what it was, I couldn’t do it.

Number 3:   No, I’m looking at you Ryan. No.

Number 4:   When you run out of other options, you go with what’s left.

Before we could implement this grand scheme, we had to catch and confine the snake without hurting it or ourselves and before releasing, we had to identify it. With one brave soul to help me, we moved equipment out of the way, found a large bucket and gingerly positioned it under the snake’s perch. A nudge of the tail with the handle of a hoe livened things up immediately.

Snakes move very fast. It’s kinda scary. Lesson learned.

Snake bundledAfter a bad moment where it looked like the snake might escape, I nudged it again and it wrapped its tail around the handle. That gave me the leverage I needed to manuever it into the bucket. From there it was easy to slip it into a pillowcase, proving once and for all that my obsessive watching of Animal Planet has paid off.

Dman drove me down to the local pet supply store, staffed by people who know their stuff. A quick peek into the bag revealed the identity of my guest, Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum, an Eastern milk snake. Adults range 3 to as much as 5 feet long. An expert climber (obviously) often ascending porches and vines, they will enter houses looking for mice.

Milk snakes are considered beneficial, superior hunters of mice and rats. Living with “good” snakes is difficult to contemplate, although like spiders they often slip away before you see them. They Milk Snake close upalso have a big strike against them for me. Larger adults will eat eggs and attack chickens. Anything going after my chickens has to confront Mr. Roo. At 12 pounds with solid two inch spurs, he’s a formidable opponent and very protective of the Ladies. Add in three large dogs, frustrated by the daily taunting and daring escapes of our local squirrel tribe, and it’s not going to go well for the snake. So off we went to a nearby conservation area, where we released it.

That is the last I saw of it, and I’m good with that.

I must pay homage to my stalwart helper in this escapade. Miss Vicki, who stands about 5 foot nothing and weighs 98 pounds soaking wet with a brick in each back pocket, was fearless. She volunteered to hold the bucket under the snake and never flinched, even during the more dicey moments.

Today is her birthday and so, in addition to wishing her a happy one, I’m giving her the “Balls of Steel” award.

Display it proudly, you earned girl!

Balls of Steel