Those Sneaky Snakes

Why, yes, I do have more to say about snakes. Thanks for all the great comments on the previous snake post! I guess all the dry weather had them all wandering around the ranch or something. (Aside: it has been raining this week, which we truly needed, but we could use more.)

snake-1332381_960_720
This public domain photo shows the cotton mouth and thick body of a water moccasin.

Another venomous encounter

Ralph at Wild Type Ranch reported a water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorous, also known as a cottonmouth) in his driveway last week. I’ve never seen one when it wasn’t swimming, so that was a big surprise to me. His dog tripped over it, so it wasn’t in attack mode. That’s good, because they are poisonous!

Another fact about these guys is that there is a non-poisonous water snake that just swims around, happily convincing people that it might just be a cottonmouth. That is usually what we see in our ponds. They get big, and are fun to watch while they undulate around looking for fish to eat (given the water moccasin’s Latin name, one can infer they mostly eat fish, too).

How do you tell them apart? Well, read this really good article, which I’ll summarize by saying that cottonmouths have a pit viper shaped blocky head, and thick bodies, while water snakes have thin bodies and a head that just flows into the body. Basically, leave them ALL alone. They’re really cool when viewed through binoculars.

eggs
These are eggs that escaped the snake!

And a pain in the butt

The other snake that’s been around has been costing us MONEY! We are guessing the snake is (or was, we hope) some type of rat snake. Whoever it is, it likes chicken eggs, a lot. Not only are our chickens moulting, but this guy’s been around, sofor a while there we were only getting a couple of eggs a day!

The snake even left a skin, like a calling card or something. Thanks. Tyler, who lives next to the chicken coop, says he saw a corn snake on his deck (that’s a type of rat snake:  Pantherophis guttatus) so that soulc be the culprit. Given that it has eaten a LOT of eggs, I’ve been wondering if it was the big, big Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) I’ve seen a few times over in our woods. That thing is over 6 feet long (I saw it next to a fence). And, according to Wikipedia:

They are often found around farmland, and sometimes consume fledgling  chickens and eggs, which leads them to be erroneously called the chicken snake.

Rat snakes are among my favorites, and we even kept one as a pet for a couple of years when I lived in my suburban house (we let it go right where we found it). But, we need our eggs!

So, Ralph placed golf balls in each of the roosting boxes in the hen house. Snakes who eat a golf ball generally don’t eat any more eggs. Lo and behold, the last day I was getting eggs, there were 6, and there were at least two missing golf balls. I hope this means we get to have more eggs to sell, but everything I read seems to indicate that there are better snake eradication methods.

The articles I read (including the one linked above) indicate that getting rid of mice and other rodents will make the coop less attractive to snakes, and putting hardware cloth around the pen will make it harder for them go get in. Sigh, I happen to know snakes can climb trees, and there’s a big one shading the chickens.

I also secretly hope the culprit isn’t the really big one from over by my house. That is one cool snake. I’d like to just remove them, but we haven’t actually seen it.

 

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

3 thoughts on “Those Sneaky Snakes”

  1. I have that rule about not killing things unless we are in immediate danger. There was a cotton mouth in the ditch when the driveway was all messed up. He wasn’t worried about me. He turned his head my direction, and I backed away. No nest there, no reason to attack me. I have been chased, and I act in defense, but I’d rather just try and let it go on where it was trying to get to. I know they are dangerous, but many are killed that are not just because “the only good snake, is a dead snake” saying. I wholeheartedly disagree.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It is refreshing to read something from a friend about a snake with out the “kill it!” hysteria. A few of my friends would rather kill a snake than be without vermin and pests, I guess.

    Liked by 3 people

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