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Snakes alive!

GAYS MILLS - Please understand that I’m not complaining but I have yet to see a snake in 2017.  There have been no snake surprises in the garden, looking for something in the shed, mowing the lawn, or walking around in the woods. Shucks, I haven’t even seen any snakes on the road, dead or alive. Knock on wood, I hope my luck holds.

I’ve got this thing about snakes, one of the relatively few things that scare the beejesus out of me. Part of it is their stealthy ways, so quiet and smooth. “Sssing” along their cursive way, even if you expect them, they can give you a start.  Tests the old ticker every time.

I’ve tried to overcome my fear of snakes. I keep a couple of rubber prank snakes, and a metal one I made with a forge, upstairs and see them every day. I know they’re there and they never move, we get along fine. I have grabbed and held a few small garter snakes on occasion over the years, tried to befriend them so to speak. The feeling passes. They’re hard to warm up to.

I realize that snakes are necessary, can be beneficial and deserve a place in the world, yada, yada. But they have a bad reputation, with me anyway. In a way, I’d like to have a bull snake spend some time in our yard for example. We have a strong colony of moles and ground squirrels that’s getting stronger every year. A bull snake would help balance that particular segment of nature out. Money-making idea of the week: rent-a-bull-snake for natural, organic rodent control. Related problem: how do you get your snake back when the job‘s done? Can you “electronic chip” a snake like they do with dogs and cats?

Wisconsin is home to 21 kinds of snakes according to the DNR website. Nineteen of them are non-venomous and harmless and except for the fright factor, are good neighbors in our ecosystem.   And then there are the rattlesnakes—the venomous rattlesnakes. Yikes! We have the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, rare around here, and listed as an endangered species. The Timber Rattler which is found around here is a protected species. I haven’t heard tell of a local rattler sighting for a long time, several years. One theory is that, even though they are protected, they may get quietly “dispatched” if they are found around buildings. Another thought is that with the introduction of turkeys several years ago the turkeys have helped control the population.

Thank goodness the rattlers come with an audible warning device. As the saying goes, “most wildlife is more fearful of us than we are of them” and rattlers can communicate their presence. I think of that every time I see a snake; they all look like rattlers to me until proven otherwise. I hope my failing sense of hearing can still get the warning sound  should I ever cross paths with a rattler. I’ll be on alert until freeze up, when I can breathe easier.