“Snake season is here! No really, look at all these posts on Facebook about snakes this week!” So Jenny shares a comment stream about monster snakes coming out in our county. It is spring after all.
She does have cause for concern. Last year I eliminated 3 cottonmouths from the property. We put cats into the workshop to deter them. If the cats eat the rodents, the snakes don’t have food. They also don’t like snakes and will kill small ones.
I scoff. “Snakes won’t be around. The cats will keep them away, haven’t seen anything since August anyways.” Within 24 hours I was required to recant.
Mr(s) Rat Snake was perched in my shop window. “Where are these crafty kittens? How can the cats let an invasion happen? Why hasn’t this snake moved in the time I took these pictures?”
I go into the shop and find perfect stillness. Not a tongue flicks out, not a glance at the snake. Oh sure, the cat Wasp was moving all about licking herself and looking all around this serpent, but never at the serpent. The stalemate is real. Snake can’t go forward, and backing up exposes the neck. The cat Wasp can’t make a move because the distance is to far. So no one moves to the fight.
I’ve introduced the boys to Kipling’s The Jungle Books. There’s a recurring theme in the loosely fitting narratives. The eyes of the snake contain paralysis and death. Don’t look at the snake! It’s in Mowgli stories and Ricki Ticki Tavi, the mongoose who kills malevolent cobras. I thought it was a mythological apparatus Kipling incorporated, but maybe it’s more then that. He was a keen observer of the wild.
After 5 minutes of watching and having Jenny come see, I pulled the snake out on a rake and threw it over the fence.
What? Keep the snake?? Yes. It is shy and non venomous. It fills a predatory niche in this ecosystem. If the rat snake supplants the aggressive and poisonous cottonmouths, it is a real win. Maybe awareness of the new cat sheriffs in town will percolate throughout the meadows and forests warning all pests to leave the shop alone! Kipling would be proud.