Sunday, September 23, 2012

thar's a snake in mah boots!

Undoubtedly the scariest call I've gotten from work happened this Thursday, when the director of the chess club that Cal attends after school called that afternoon to say that Cal never showed up, and did I know where he was?  (I was at work and of course freaked out because OMG MY BOY IS LOST.  Long story short, Cal just forgot it was chess club day and so missed the bus that was to take him there--we tracked him down ten minutes later patiently waiting in the principal's office for someone to pick him up.)  So yes, that was scary.  But the second scariest call from home I received the day after that, when our nanny told us that she came home from school pickup to see two large copperhead snakes sunning in our driveway.

Joe and I pulled in from work at the same time, and there were no snakes visible, sunning or otherwise. Joe went peering by the back door to see if the snakes were hiding under this storage unit we keep there for balls and frisbees and assorted outdoor detritus, and said, "I don't see anyth--" before jumping back in the air about three feet.  Because there was this:

I don't think I realized that I was scared of snakes until that day.  I knew I was scared of cockroaches--growing up in an apartment in New York made me more than familiar with that particular evolutionary success story--but I honestly can't say I've really seen a snake that big outside of a zoo, behind a guardrail and an information placard and a thick, reassuring layer of plexiglass.  But now, peering out from the inside of my house at the venomous snake chilling outside, I can confirm that yeah, for sure, I'm afraid of snakes.

I mean, LOOK AT IT.


(Borderline related: did anyone who got the iPhone 5 on release day have any input as to its improvements when it comes to low-light photography?  As someone who lives in a low ceilinged ranch house with not enough windows, I am interested.  Please weigh in if you're in the mood!)

Anyway, I looked at it and screamed girlishly. Then we called the kids to look at it and they did not seem particularly perturbed (or indeed even that interested), though I gave them both a stern talk nonetheless about if you see a snake don't go near it, it doesn't want to hurt you but it could bite you if it gets scared (I left out the part about tissue necrosis and the potential need for serial debriedments and fasciotomies because WHATEVER, TMI).  They shrugged, glanced and the snake through the window again before going back to their Legos.  But I could not be so blase about it because the snake, OMG the SNAKE.

About half an hour later the snake slithered away under some shrubbery along the side of the house, at which point we could see that the tip of its tail was a little squashed from our nanny accidentally running over it with her car when she first pulled into the driveway.  We noted where the snake was headed as we had already called A Snake Guy (I believe his official title was "Wildlife Removal Specialist") to come by and check our property the next morning, and wanted to give him a little help in finding what might be the nest, or as I called it, Snake HQ.

I was on call this weekend, so when I walked to the car Saturday morning (down a poorly lit driveway that my mind inconveniently imagined to be PAVED WITH SNAKES) I did again see one snake lying there in the middle of the driveway, not moving.  I didn't know if it was the same snake as yesterday and frankly I didn't care--I hurriedly got into my car (which was probably teeming with SNAKES) reached into my bag (also stuffed full of SNAKES) and started the engine (ditto SNAKES).

The Wildlife Removal Specialist showed up later that morning while I was at the hospital, and though I wasn't there, Joe said that he got rid of that one driveway snake (it was the same snake from the day before, already dead, probably from the inadvertent tail squishing--and it was inadvertent, because even though none of us like snakes and even though the snake could bite our kids/dog/selves, I don't think any of us has the stomach or cojones to kill a snake), sprinkled some "granules" in the high-suspicion region by Snake HQ (purportedly a repellent of some sort) and put down two glue traps that looked for all the world like the ones I could buy at Home Depot.  Total bill: $230 for half an hour of work.  He did not find a nest or any other snakes in the area, though it's not clear to me how hard he looked--half an hour in an area as dense with ground cover as our yard doesn't seem like a whole lot of time to spend combing the premises.  And the glue traps were covered with leaves by that evening, so it's really uncertain how effective those are going to be.

(This is probably a good point to tell you guys that I'm quitting my job and becoming a Wildlife Removal Specialist.  They have a higher hourly rate than I do and they don't have to pay malpractice insurance.  All those years of medical training wasted, but whatever, sunk cost.)

So that's that.  But what bothers me now--what really bothers me--is this: our nanny said that she returned from school pickup to find two copperheads sunning on our driveway.  Two.  One of them got accidentally squished by her car, and that's the one that we found, and that the wildlife guy removed.  (YOU GUYS HE DIDN'T EVEN KILL THAT SNAKE HIMSELF.  $230?  Really?)  But the other one we never saw again.  So in all likelihood, we may still have a large and extremely poisonous snake still hanging around our property.  He could still be in our yard.  He could be hiding under my car.  He could be calling me on the phone and oh my god, get out, the call is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE.

So basically we have to move now, right?


  1. Reading this entire post made me feel as if I have snakes and cockroaches under by desk, crawling up my feet. AHH!!

    Anyways, snakes - WOW! Growing up in Texas, many of our friends have had encounters with snakes, but I haven't had any...and hoping I never have to! Hopefully Snake #2 (the missing one) was so upset that Snake #1 died, that #2 slithered off somewhere very far from your house! =)

  2. I think I prefer snakes to cockroaches, to be honest with you...COCKROACHES***AARGH***SHUDDER***SCREAM!,,,

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  3. I totally understand what you mean about not knowing you were afraid of snakes... At a house I lived in during college (which was build on old farm land, so you know, country-ish), my next door neighbor hollered to me one day to ask if I was afraid of snakes. "No," I said, because I had touched a big pet python once when I was a teenager. Apparently there was a small garter snake in her garage - she was afraid of snakes and would I please help her get it out. Well, the snake was caught in a cob web and was NOT in a good mood. I will say that all it took to make me afraid of snakes was one hiss from this tiny green thing. We ended up getting the man across the street to help us, and he killed it.

    I don't know what the moral of the story is here, but I would probably burn my boots it was sitting next to if I were you.

  4. Be thankful you don't live in Australia.

  5. Hide yo kids! Hide yo wife!

  6. I know I already gave a TMI comment on Twitter RE: snake killing, so again, from the droves of life experiences from living in the south, snakes usually like to sun during the day, so that's when you'll see them. They also seem to like concrete--hence, being in the middle of the driveway (a sight I saw a lot), or on the side of my parents' stucco house, or on the concrete exit outside of the screen door of our back porch.

    Do you guys have a lawn service, though? Upon further reflection, I remembered coming home from high school (before my parents were home) and being all, "WTF, snake!" but the lawn service people were there, so they handled the situation (and left a dismembered snake on the lawn for my mother to dispose of). But seriously, after that, they knew to "handle" things and did so for free. Just another option to think about, since they'd be the ones all up in the shrubbery anyway, and would see them there if you're worried. Hopefully, the snake guy concoctions work, though. One would think that if he makes a living doing this, whatever he does works, right?

  7. We have three cats and they have pet doors with full access to the outside - not only do they love it, but we don't have litter boxes for them. The downside of the situation is that they bring an assortment of critters (dead and alive) into our home.

    Thankfully, our snake census has been low this summer - last year they brought SEVEN into the house. All of these reptiles are very small and non-venomous, but usually quite alive. I'm becoming more and more paranoid as the numbers rack up, but I don't like to kill them - they really don't want to harm me!

    However, I've got to say if a fellow that looked like that showed up, I'm afraid I'd have to dispatch him post-haste! I'd not only be worried about the kids stepping on that by mistake, the dog is in danger as well...

  8. We live in North Carolina in the woods. I am of the opinion that all wild snakes are wild animals doing wild animal things and trying to stay alive, which seems reasonable to me. That some of them happen to be poisonous wouldn't be a big deal to me except that I have two kids under four. My rule is that venomous snakes who are close to our front door get axed. This has been an unusually prolific year. Thus far, our Copperhead vs. Us conflict has totalled four dead snakes, no bit humans, one nipped dog with mild foot swelling (which actually happened at a state park while hiking). I wish we could do a public service announcement for copperheads: stay away from humans and pets, live happily every after. I have half a mind to start a little mongoose colony.

  9. Anonymous11:39 PM

    My husband, a surgeon, is also a snake wrangler. He lived in Asia as a teenager and Louisiana as a kid. When doing the premed/med school thing he would be "the snake wrangler" and remove snakes from people's houses for these companies. We've even got pretty non venomous snakes as pets (in the basement in cages). And yes we have kids...this is my husband's attempt to turn our children into vets instead of surgeons. anyway... let me tell you how to keep your yard safe: make sure you have NO FOLIAGE laying around. Copperheads LOVE foliage. This means get a lawn service as others have mentioned. You need to keep your yard free of ALL debris. If there were two snakes and snake guy didn't find the other snake rest assured its probably around. Also... if you continue to find snakes you might want to get a pest person out there. My husband found 3 LARGE KING SNAKES (non venomous) in a neurologists home this past summer. This led him to believe they had a rodent problem. And sure enough pest guy confirmed major rodent problem. King snakes and snakes in general are around areas where they can get guaranteed food. You might want to make sure you dont have a rodent problem. When it's warm the snakes are active and looking for food. When it's cold they go away. If by chance you or your kids ever get bit by a copperhead make sure you receive the proper anti-venom the moment you get to the hospital. We don't believe in killing snakes BUT my husband knows how to remove venomous snakes safely. i would NEVER recommend you or your husband go near a venomous snake EVER. Call the fire department before you or your kids take a crack at those things. Watch where you step, get good lighting and keep a tidy yard. Maybe Atlanta will have a good freeze in the coming months. Sorry to hear about your scare. That is a HUGE snake and for sure old. You should contact your zoo and see if any of the reptile people want to come look at your property. We are far from GA or else i'd offer my husband. He is known as the snake whisperer wherever he goes. Yes those services are expensive and not everybody is good at what they do. I would call 911 next time immediately. Don't wait for snake folks to come over later. Of course if you can always throw a live mouse in a cage in your yard and wait for the other snake to show up while wrangler is there. Never heard of those glue traps. Sounds like you got played with that dude. Snake guy should be walking around your house with his stick, looking under rocks, foliage, going through the dark corners of your garage and if he can get under your house take a look in there too. Thats' what my husband had to do. He wrangled a four foot snake out of neurologists dryer and rehomed it in the woods.

  10. Anonymous12:46 AM

    Ohhhhhuugh..**spine shiver** that just freaks me out beyond imagination - here in New Zealand we don't have ANY sort of snakes at all -so any form of slithery reptile is blown out of every proportion when it comes to dealing with them - I would not know where to begin. Well done you - I would be terrified for weeks just venturing outside in any place they had been seen in....I am a total snake wuss. Take those damn granule sprinkle things with you everywhere!..totally the weapon of choice.My path would be granulated top to toe. Do your dog(s) bark at them??!

  11. Anonymous7:24 AM

    I was in the pool last summer...standing at the edge reading a book...when a snake swam between me and the wall. Little snake. Probably harmless. I fished it out with the net. But that ruined swimming season for me. And I keep a close eye on the pool when I'm in it now. Snakes. Eeeeuuuuwww.

  12. I used to live in southern Georgia, and like Nelson's mama I had a cat that would bring prizes into the house. One morning I found a small tan snake hanging out in the grout in the tiled foyer (ie INSIDE THE HOUSE). I got my standard critter-removal gear (oven mitts, broom, plastic grocery bag) and tried to herd the snake into the bag, whereupon it hissed and RATTLED ITS TAIL. It was a goddamn rattlesnake. I felt I was committed at that point though...if I retreated to cobble together snake-killing supplies, and it disappeared, I would have to move. So with much cursing I shoved it in the bag then chucked it over the back fence.

    I called local animal control...they were extremely non-helpful, and never came out. For some reason I never thought of a private snake wrangler (and I now live back in New England, so may I never need to consider this again).

    Oh and ALSO: I told this tale at work the next am, and was informed that baby rattlesnakes are the most dangerous, b/c they have no control and release all of their venom at once. So don't ever do what I was lucky enough to get away with!

  13. Anonymous9:31 AM

    That is one big, scary snake!
    The advice from wife of the surgeon-snake wrangler sounds spot on.

  14. Therese10:30 AM

    The only option I see is to immediately pack up and move or burn your yard and patio to the ground... :) In all seriousness, I grew up in rural KY and spent summers working at a church camp in the mountains. Snakes of all kinds, including Copperheads, were always around. I don't necessarily like killing them but I admit to being extremely frightened of all snakes. My general philosophy is "if they want my space, I will go somewhere else."

  15. I am suddenly even more glad than usual to live in Canada. The only snakes we have here are completely harmless garter snakes. I would soil myself if I saw anything that looked remotely like a dangerous snake.

  16. Anonymous10:57 AM

    The ophidiophobe in me had to resist shutting down the computer and running like hell as soon as I saw the first picture. So glad I didn't. This was one of your funniest posts yet!

  17. My husband and I once took a dip in a creek in the northern California redwoods. At one point I looked upstream and saw a huge black snake swimming toward me - and this sucker was FAST. I have never seen anything creepier than the way that snake slid through the water - like the snake version of JAWS! Years later, my husband (a biologist) laughs just as hard when I mention that snake as he did when I scrambled out of the stream that day. He says it was just a garter snake. I don't care what he says, it was definitely up to no good. But keep writing about your snake, because that was hilarious!

    And I think it's the surgeon/snake wrangler's turn to write a book, now.

    1. Anonymous7:45 PM

      I second that book idea!

  18. Anonymous7:51 PM

    I grew up on a ranch in TX (aka, I'm pro-2nd amendment, hah). Depending on proximity to house/dogs/children/etc these snakes would either be shot or chopped up with a hoe. Now I live in suburban CO, thank goodness! :)

    First time commenting, my hubs and I are both ER docs with 3 kids. Not the same as an on-call specialty, but we appreciate your stories none-the-less.

  19. just saw this comparison of iphone4s > 5 cameras in low light conditions. lucky you!

  20. Anonymous8:34 PM

    when he's done doing the doctor/husband/daddy thing i'll have him write a book. he wrote this article long before medicine...
    (cobra venom in my eyes).
    i hope you get those snakes out of your yard. i would be beside myself with little kids in the house even with a husband who knows how to deal with them.

  21. Anonymous10:00 PM

    Now would NOT be a good time to watch snakes on a plane. You would likely die. If not, you'd likely pioneer a parody entitled snakes in the OR.

  22. :heebiejeebies: Snakes are why my parents keep a shotgun on their property in rural IN. (Also, I suppose, the evil coyotes who attack pets).

    I will allow a non-venomous snake to hang out outside my house (I had a black rat snake in NC who ate the copious numbers of crickets that infested that particular house. I hate crickets more than snakes. WELCOME, FRIEND.) But venomous snakes, they die, no questions asked.

    (While I was in Kenya a man got dragged out of his kitchen and up a tree by a boa constrictor. But he had his cell phone with him and they're not poisonous, so he called someone while it was busy squeezing and they rescued him. But STILL. DRAGGED A MAN OUT OF HIS KITCHEN!).

  23. Anonymous8:09 AM

    are you keeping the boots or are you going to get rid of them?

  24. Anonymous8:25 AM

    oh man, snakes are creepy. growing up in the woods in MD, we had are fair share of them. most vivid snake memory: coming home from library as child in minivan. as we drove up the hill our house was located on we rode over a bump. My mom: "Oh my GOD was that a SNAKE?!" pulls van in reverse *BUMP* "YEP, that was a SNAKE!!!" *BUMP" "AHHH THERE'S A SNAKE ON OUR DRIVEWAY!!!!" and yes, it was a copperhead, too. but this copperhead did not suffer long from getting run over. for my dad i suppose, DID have the cajones to kill that snake to pieces. I just remember peering out the door and seeing my dad go cray-zay on that snake with a gardening hoe. snake bits everywhere.

    this story makes us sound extremely red-neck. but really, we aren't.

  25. Anonymous4:14 PM

    I live in northern GA and just found a copperhead underneath my garbage can! He had to go. I chopped off his head with a shovel. You CANNOT be that close to the house. Anyway, I spread a bunch of moth balls around the house. Maybe that will help?

  26. Rural northern CA. Rattler in road. Striking at cars! I was so scared. Even inside the car. In fact, I'm scared right now. DON'T REACH IN THE BOOTS!

  27. Anonymous10:13 AM

    would you get Cal a cell phone so he could call in a situation like this?

  28. The situation like this is common on some flooded prove areas or the place surrounded with the trees. We have to take care specially if we don't if this kind of snakes are poisonous or not.

  29. Anonymous2:36 PM

    I second the idea of maybe getting Cal his own cell phone. I mean you can get really cheap ones at walmart. Maybe a track phone where you just buy like a 20.00 card for so many minutes and for a kid his age using it only in case of an emergency it would last a long time. Last year I bought our 5 year old grandson his own cell phone. Their family no longer has a landline and everyone has their own phone. We were going on vacation for a cpl months and he wanted to be able to call me at will. Its been over a year and it has worked out pretty good. I only have to get him a card every cpl months and we programmed only the numbers he would need to be calling. He can call mom, dad, my husband and I, his older brother and sister and 911...There was one time when he got into a shouting match with his sister and informed her he was going to call the police and have her put in jail and in fact he did make that call. After a stern talk from Dad he hasn't tried that again.

    As for the SNAKES you are braver than I. I would have to leave with my kids until I knew for sure there was no snakes. But, I say that living in Ohio. I know it's common to get them at certain times of the year in some areas of the US. I could not ever live in those places. I don't even look at fish worms. Good luck with all this. Hope by now they are gone and never to return.

    1. Anonymous8:45 PM

      Oh boy...I hope your son/daughter asked you to buy the kiddo a cell phone. Holy boundary-stomping grandparent alert! I would be very displeased with my parents if they pulled that without asking me, just so the kid can call you without having to ask his parents first?

      If they did ask you and/or were okay with it, please disregard my comments. I saw this and my first thought was ''I'd scream at my mother if she pulled that sh*t" but that just may be old wounds popping up.

  30. Anonymous2:40 PM

    I think if you guys see anymore snakes you should definitely kill it. Use a garden hoe, shovel or whatever. Just chop off its head. I would definitely do that rather than let them free to roam the yard where the kids play.

  31. *smacks forehead* It's just dawned on me - the subject line of your post, it's from Toy Story 2, isn't it?

  32. "Snakes... Why did it have to be snakes?..." I imagined Harrison Ford, a la Henry Jones Junior, speaking out from behind your post. I'm glad you are okay!

  33. At least you were not on a plane.

  34. Anonymous11:26 AM

    with the low light photography, there is an app called camera plus that allows you to select your aperture separately from your focus which helps a little bit. It is definitely an improvement in low lighting.

  35. Anonymous9:14 PM

    I would throw out the glue traps. Innocent animals get stuck on them. Every cat stuck on one that was brought in when I worked for a vet died. Mineral oil is supposed to release them but it doesn't work well, it's not supposed to be toxic, either (the glue). Maybe the stress killed them. Mice, when stuck on them, will break their own legs trying to escape or will chew their feet off, and so will other larger animals. So the birds in your yard, squirrels, all those things are at risk. Glue traps are nasty.

    There are vaccines for dogs for venomous snakes. Rattlesnakes for sure, maybe copperheads. It won't save your dog, but it gives you a couple extra hours to find your dog and get it to the vet for treatment.

    Definitely get the leaves and debris cleaned out, especially near the house. Put your boots on boot poles, so they are upside down (just dowels in a piece of 2 x 4).

  36. Anonymous4:24 AM

    Oh my greatness. I'm so crap scared of snakes it's unbelievable. We have some pretty poisonous ones here in South Africa too. One of our registrars (residents) told us that during his community service year one of his patients was bitten by a Cape Cobra and brought the thing along to the consulting room. He insisted he was feeling fine but they rushed him to the hospital in any case. He desaturated on the way and spent I don't know how long on a ventilator. That hospital killed the snake and stuffed it and it's now famously displayed to all visitors, or something.
    Sorry. Realise this isn't helping. Just - I hate snakes and I'm so scared of them. And my boyfriend has them as PETS!!!

  37. Oh, I know the pain of paying for pest removal - even though it's the peace of mind and worth it, holy cow it's a lot of money. I paid a "bat guy" over $900 to bat-proof the house (basically caulk), not only once, but twice. The guarantee only lasts two years, so this August when a I woke in the middle of the night to a fluttering bat circling over my bed, it was time to call and re-up. Pricey, but dealing with these kinds of critters is best left to the pros. Good luck!

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  41. Horrifying! This is why I'm relatively happy that I live in the UK, you don't tend to get too many snakes here!

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