Friday, May 05, 2006

My First Snake

A very excited Memory watching the snakeDo you remember, back in November, my blog on Snakes and Spiders? I hate the idea of sharing my back garden with snakes, but when we moved here, I decided that I would not over-react, but would educate myself and my family and take a few cues from what the natives do. Up until now, I have only seen a small snake that had been flattened by a car. The breaking news is that I have now seen my first live snake.

A Black Rat Snake on our deckingThere is a local saying here -- "April-May, Stay Away." April and May are the months when the snakes (which are active for about 8 months of the year) are at their most active. It is their breeding season. It is the time of year when they are looking for somewhere to lay their eggs or have their babies and it is also the time of year when they are most likely to bite first and run (or should I say "slither"?) away later. Therefore, the rule is -- stay out of the woods in April and May. My neighbour had also told me that snakes have been known to nest in the crawl space under the house in past years.

The cats watch the snake intentlyI had also been told that naphthalene mothballs are very good for keeping snakes away. After a little research, I found out that naphthalene is the main ingredient in Snake-A-Way, the market-leading snake repellent. So, back in early April, I scattered a load of moth balls around the crawl space under our house to discourage snakes. (Because our house is built on a hill, the crawl space is big enough to stand up in and has a full size door leading into it. It also has a half-built extra room in it, which we thought we might finish-off and turn into a games room when we get around to it.) I also scattered one or two around the house, but they were just a few and have probably long since washed away. I didn't want to scatter them around the house too much because the chemical can be harmful to wildlife.

A Black Rat Snake on our deckingOur first realisation that there was a snake outside the window was when the cat (Memory) knocked over a table lamp. Upon investigating, we discovered that it was because she had been startled by a snake. As this was not only the first live snake that I've seen since being here, but the first wild live snake that I've seen other than in zoos, I grabbed my camera as quickly as I could and went totally snap-happy. I'm sure that future snakes will not get the same amount of attention, but this one got the full-blown paparazzi treatment.

As you can see, it's not a venomous snake, but even non-venomous snakes can bite (not to mention the fact that they totally creep me out), so I wasn't going to go outside to take my pictures. A quick google later and I found a web site for identifying snakes. It turns out that this one was a Black Rat Snake. They breed twice a year -- in April to June and in the Fall. They often climb trees and eat small rodents, birds and birds' eggs.

I have to say, though, that although seeing my first snake was quite exciting, I think that it calls for a few more moth balls to be scattered around the perimeter of the house. Alternatively, as it is not washed away by rain and a single treatment lasts for about three months I may invest in some Snake-A-Way.

Here's a few more shots:
A Black Rat Snake on our deckingA Black Rat Snake on our deckingA Black Rat Snake on our deckingA Black Rat Snake on our deckingA Black Rat Snake on our deckingAnother Black Rat Snake on our decking
(The criss-cross effect is due to many of the photos having been taken through windows with mesh on them. The last of the pictures is of another, slightly smaller snake that came along about half an hour later.)


Lorraine said...

I think you are very brave to even photograph the thing through the windows. Eeewww! All we have here are tiny garter snakes and I can't remember the last time I saw one. That thing is HUGE by comparison! "April & May, Stay Away"...No Problem!

crystal said...

Scary snake! btw, I've read that moth balls are toxic to cats, but I'm sure you already know that.

Viola said...

I think that moth balls are toxic to all and sundry, which is why I have been loathe to put them anywhere other than under the house. That's partly why I decided that I should buy some Snake-A-Way. It is supposed to be safe for humans, pets and the environment.

Viola said...

Mind you, I just read that Snake-A-Way is not very effective against Rat Snakes. Perhaps I just have to accept and come to terms with the idea of snakes coming right up to our house. Perhaps it's just something that I have to learn to live with.

crystal said...

I'd be scared spitless if a snake was that close :-). Maybe a page like this can help, though it's not your state.