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Copperhead Catcher

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Good morning. We will now demonstrate Zick's favorite gadget, the Ronco Copperhead Nabber. I like this thing even better than I like Safer's pantry moth traps, which use pheromones to lure those annoying beige moths into some stickum inside the cardboard traps. I like nontoxic, effective methods of interacting with wildlife that I want out of my territory. I also like things that work really well.

As some of you will recall, my snake-catching skills have been honed over 26 years of country living. I have trapped and transported probably 15 copperheads in the 14 years we've lived at Indigo Hill. I used to use a stick or implement to pin the neck, then pick them up by the tail and lower them into a bucket. Copperheads tend to be docile animals, and this approach usually worked. Usually.

Four additional snakes were not with the program, and took violent exception to being pinned and picked up, however gingerly. The one I remember best was a huge, thick girthed beast in excess of 3' long. Ye gods. I got her pinned and picked up, only to find that my arm was not long enough to keep her far enough away from my tender parts. Here I was, in the middle of the concrete driveway, with little Phoebe looking on, twirling this enormous, heavy snake by her tail, absolutely frozen with terror that she'd bite me in the bicep or the stomach or thigh. She doubled back up her length and just about grazed my upper arm. Somehow I maneuvered her to a trash barrel and got her in it. Eek, eek, eek.

Three others were striking so madly and dangerously from the get-go that I couldn't get close enough to even pin them. Yeeks. Wasn't going to pick those bad boys up by the tail. They didn't get the courtesy of Zick's witness protection and relocation program. I like copperheads, but not enough to take another bite from one.

There had to be a better way.

I went online, found a good wildlife control gear site, and ordered myself a 3' long snake tongs. Such an elegant tool. The best $48 I've ever spent. Suddenly, no snake was big or vicious enough to rattle me. A squeeze handle like a bike brake tightens a steel tendon that brings the tongs together in a gentle but very firm grip. Now I look forward to encounters with copperheads like this little one that Phoebe found poking out of a crack in the concrete. I like that evil little orange head. I also like the way he's got a coil out that I can snag with my snake tongs.
My heart rate doesn't speed up one bit as I gently grasp the snake by its middle and lower it into a barrel.It can writhe and strike all it wants. It's not going anywhere but where I want it now.

Generally, I drive the snake two or three miles into an uninhabited, rocky area and release it. I don't take kids or dogs along in case the bucket somehow tips on these windy roads. I want to be the only one dealing with a snake in my car.

This particular snake--a nice, docile one-- accepted a fresh mouse that had accidentally drowned in a cooler, some nice fragrant straw and fresh water, and then went to be the resident exhibit copperhead at Salt Fork State Park. Our friends Jason and John made a mad midnight run to pick it up, so excited were they to get the call that I'd caught the copperhead they'd been lusting for. If it won't eat for them it'll come back to the Indigo Hill environs. All in all, a pretty good exchange. Yes, that is a Life is Good T-shirt , with a trout on it. I would like one with a copperhead on it.
All photos taken from a safe distance by a very brave Phoebe Linnea Thompson.


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