One night while fixing dinner, I saw a movement under the microwave stand. I have an old, two-story farmhouse in the woods, and when the weather gets cooler critters come in the house. I figured it was a mouse caught on a sticky board again. I looked under the stand and found myself staring eye to eye with a copperhead stuck on the sticky board. I stopped just short of screaming like a little girl.
I keep a set of snake tongs at the front door, so I got the tongs and picked up the snake, still attached to the sticky board. Out the door I went with snake and cooking oil in hand. I got away from the house a little bit, put the snake down and covered him with cooking oil so he could squirm free. We both got a stressful experience, and I got a great story.
I have told the story of the copperhead in the kitchen many times in my job with Outreach and Education in the Ozark Region. Although we have lots of snakes, encounters with them don’t have to be scary. A little bit of knowledge helps quell the fear, so I thought I’d share a few tips from the Ozarks about snakes.
First, people find sheds and want to know if the long, scaly “sleeve” of skin is from a venomous snake. If you have the tail part, flip it over. Locate the vent (where the snake “goes to the bathroom”). If the scales are a double row like a zipper, it is non-venomous. If it is like a ladder—a single row like the rest of the belly—it is venomous.
Second, how can you get rid of snakes around the house? By getting rid of what makes them happy. If there is good habitat, such as a woodpile, rock pile or tall grass, get rid of it. If there are mice or other foods, get rid of them. We often hear, “but I don’t see any mice.” Ahhh, maybe you aren’t seeing them because the snake has been taking care of them. And that brings up a good point: snakes are really good exterminators. They have an important role in our world, keeping mice, rabbits and other small animals in check.
People most often get bitten when they are trying to catch snakes or kill them (or the snake thinks they are). Leave them alone. You are bigger than they are, and they think you want to eat them. They will defend themselves, and they can’t just tell you to go away. Even if you are a little put off by snakes, back up and let them go their way. You can end the day with a story to tell, and the snake can live to do its job.