Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Relocating Rattlesnakes

So far this season I have had to relocate two small rattlesnakes and have the fire department help me relocate a third much larger snake that was under the porch where I couldn't get it.  When I say relocate, I mean physically pick up the snake and move it from one location to another; I do not mean "relocate it's head from it's body" as someone asked.  Rattlesnakes are far too valuable to kill simply because they are venomous.  We have such a ridiculous overpopulation of squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rats, and gophers to be killing anything that could help keep their numbers checked.  And while everyone says I'll change my mind the minute my dogs, myself, or someone I love gets bit, all I can say is: maybe, but we won't know 'til/unless it happens.

In the meantime, how am I relocating these gorgeous beasties?  It's certainly not a recommended way or a high tech way, it's just a way that works for me.  I have an old metal rake with long fingers or tines or whatever they are called.  I scoop the snake up on the end of the rake, walk it quickly but steadily to a place out of the way of people/dogs walking/living, and gently lower the rake to the ground.  The snake slithers off into a little coil of scared scales and I gingerly back away.  The end.

I will admit that the first time I ever did this, about a year ago, I was terrified.  My ex had always handled the rattlesnakes and was a much cooler hand at it than myself.  But, when there's no ex around to handle it, we make do.  Once I'd finished moving the little guy and I was safely back in snakeless territory I realized how simple it really was and I've never looked back.  This isn't to say that I'm all cavalier about these guys now, I'm still extremely careful when approaching them, moving them, and backing away from them, but now I'm not as panicked.  My heart beats faster but I'm calm.

Here are a few tips:

-a tired snake is much less likely to strike.  Snakes tire easily and many are non-aggressive anyway.  If you're nervous about the snake striking out at you while on the end of whatever contraption you're going to use to move him, just wear him out first.  Take your rake or shovel (be very careful with shovels, they're heavy and you don't want to accidentally kill or injure the snake) or pole or whatever and kind of slap it down a foot or so in front of the snake.  If the snake strikes at it, do it again.  Keep doing it until the snake stops striking.  It won't take more than five minutes (even if it feels like a lifetime).  Once the snake is too tired to strike, scoop him up, quickly but steadily move him somewhere else, and gently let him down

-whatever device you are using to move him should keep his body several feet from your body (a snake can strike roughly half it's length in distance, so make sure he's never as close as his body length from you).  I prefer a rake because it has a very long handle, one that keeps even a large snake more than striking distance away from me

-snakes travel a path of least resistance whenever possible so wherever you move him, make sure it's further downhill from you as he's more likely to continue downhill rather than struggle back uphill

-never be too cool to ask for help.  Our local fire department does snake relocation for free.  It's a great excuse to watch some hot guys be brave and studly

-you can find free plans for catch poles online if you'd like to diy a real snake catching tool

This'll be a record year for snakes due to the weather patterns from last year to this.  Watch your step out there!

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