Friday, November 7, 2014

Reptiles 'R Us?

So, I'm still getting used to the new, um, "wildlife scenario" in NC. I mean, it's obviously not that Team WestEnders is unaccustomed to nature, or anything, having previously resided in a neighborhood that we thought of at the time as pretty much our own Wild Kingdom. We used to enjoy observing the deer, foxes, groundhogs, hawks--and various run-of-the-mill squirrels, chipmunks, etc.--outside on our lawn. In contrast, here the animal pool seems to contain roving hordes of Bambis, some hawks, at least one owl (which is elusive, but I know it's there from the distinctive hooting and shrieking noises it makes while presumably hunting the aforementioned rodent-snacks), the rumor of coyotes (as yet unconfirmed by sight or sound, but reported as true by longer-term residents) snakes. That's right: plural, apparently.

First there was the gigantic black individual we saw using our back yard as a convenient, cozy sunning spot last month. That was slightly horrifying, as it appeared theoretically large enough to eat...well...ME...if it so desired. But according to some academic "posting it on Facebook and inviting comments" was a harmless variety (to humans, anyway) who would happily munch on bunnies or similarly-sized furry treats. Then today, while I was attempting to make some headway on clearing the mounds of leaves blanketing our yard several inches deep (lovely trees--darn shedding problem!) I uncovered something small and sinuous. Its white belly was facing up towards me, and my initial impression was, "Ew, that's a really big earthworm." But something about it struck me as odd, so I bent closer to get a better view and decided, "Um...or rather, a very tiny snake."

Since it hadn't moved so much as a millimeter during my inspection, I took my time deciding how to deal with it. Eventually I grabbed a stick, hooked it under a coiled section, and carried it casually toward the driveway. Meanwhile Husband, returning from an errand, drove up to the sight of me parading toward him, dangling an unidentified object from a twig. When he got close enough, I held it out to the car window for his perusal. "Wow, that's a very big worm...." (He began slowly, then trailed off as understanding dawned.) "Wait a minute, is that a snake?" "Yep!" I replied proudly--you know, as if I'd just wrangled an adult...boa constrictor...single-handedly preserving the safety of our back yard for all of humanity. Lest he worry unduly, I hastened to add reassuringly, "But I think it's dead." ('Cuz, well, I AM the reigning resident Reptile Tamer, I should know...)

He shot me an incredulous glance and said, "I don't...think's tongue is flicking in and out." Wait, WHAAAAT? You see, now that he/she/it/whatever had been whisked out from under the cold, wet pile of leaves where it had been snoozing, and exposed to the sunshine, the cold-blooded creature was...waking up...and therefore becoming more lively. And here I was, obliviously carting it around like some kind of...Snake Taxi, delivering it to a nice, warm environment where it could get up to all kinds of...I don't know,"slithery hijinks", or some such nonsense. Suddenly it seemed like a reeeaally brilliant idea to thrust my arm out to its full length (honestly not a big difference...but somewhat psychologically comforting, at least) thereby marginally increasing the distance between the reptile and myself. It simultaneously occurred to me that I should make it crystal clear to Husband, "Here! This is now YOUR responsibility!" as I waved the branch firmly in his general direction.

Wisely choosing to recognize the authority of the Reptile Tamer, he quickly parked the car and returned to handle the situation. Basically, I passed off the--honestly very docile and non-threatening --snake-on-a-stick and backed up a few steps as we deliberated how to resolve the issue. Originally, I was planning to place it (that is, when I thought it was deceased) near the front porch (Ha! Great idea, right? Shudder...) to show the boys when they came home from school. However, there was another complication (I mean, besides it being "not dead"): this particular specimen had brown markings...and we didn't know what that meant in terms of venom...osity. (Yeah, in my role as the R.T., I'm totally allowed to invent words.) So we agreed that it was best to "relocate" our new little friend to the woods across the know, "for his own good"...and whatnot. (Hey, I think you'll have to agree it's much kinder and gentler than the alternative: "Back over it with the Subaru", right?)

As Husband prepared to do just that, I cried, "Hold on! Let me take a picture!" (Oh my goodness, what a surprise! Said absolutely no one...) Thus he patiently stood there a moment longer while I snapped a farewell close-up of the little guy...who by then had regained enough wiggle himself off of his perch...and plop onto the driveway. What ensued was a hilarious (okay, for ME) 3 minutes or so of Husband struggling to herd the recalcitrant reptile back onto the twig and march him over to his new home. Ah, good times. Naturally I then went straight to the Internet to Google "brown snakes that live in central NC" and God bless the all-knowing search engine, it came through, as usual. It turns out that our backyard denizen is called (wait for it) a "brown snake". Nope, not kidding about that. They grow to a maximum of less than 2 feet, and eat slugs, earthworms, and snails (most importantly: NOT US). Completely harmless, no worries.
And...Snake #2!

Make no mistake, I'm still going to retain my hard-earned title. But...maybe I'll delegate the raking to my R.T. assistants--ahem..."sons"--for a while!

Snake #1

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