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Copperhead Catchin'--Who You Gonna Call?

Friday, April 10, 2015


We're having some crazy spring weather here. The night of April 9, there was a tornado warning, from a wall cloud with rotation spotted about 20 miles southwest of here. It passed without harm, but it sure got the sireens going, people headed to the bathrooms and basement. I actually bundled all my baby bird paintings for the new book down to a secure closet in the basement. That's 13 years of work that, on the brink of publishing it, I'm not anxious to reprise, and couldn't if I wanted to.

It rains and rains and rains, making us wish for a transcontinental water pipeline, so we could send some to our drought-stricken friends out West. Just not fair. 

 Bill and I were up for a couple of hours the night of the 8th, me sopping and wringing towels into a lobster pot as water poured in over the basement door stoop; he outside drowning, digging an emergency trench across the lawn to shunt water away from the door. It worked! It won't be much fun to mow over, but our music equipment and my paintings are safe and dry. I loved that little bit of ingenuity that actually worked, and saved the day. The whole basement would have flooded without that little trench.
Wish I could say the same about the foyer, where a badly-hung gutter is feeding water back into the sofit. Drip, drip, drip into a spaghetti pot. Gutter guy who hung it wrong is totally hiding from us. Grrr.

Everyone's affected by the deluge. Even the snakes. My artist neighbor Beth Nash called about an hour ago. 

"Do you still have your snake hook?" she asked, her voice quite a bit higher pitched than usual. I didn't even ask why. I knew.

"Yep. I'll be right over."

I grabbed the tongs and an empty garbage can with a clamp-down lid, jumped in the car and was over there in less than four minutes. With one stop to dump out the dead mouse in the can, pee-yeeww!

 I knew what it would be, but I never dreamt where it would be. 


This is right where you do NOT want a venomous snake. Over your head.
Yep. Beth was trying to close the door that leads from her studio to her greenhouse, and something was catching in it. Oh. OH! She said the head was hanging down right over her head!

Now Beth is no wussy. She's not afraid of copperheads. She just doesn't want them right in her studio. A little quirk of hers, I guess. Her studio's in the basement of their barn, and the copperheads just love the rather pourous stone foundation and the fact that it's heated. She's got some serious copperhead stories.
Like me, Beth respects all animal life, and she values the copperheads for the mouse control they offer. Just wishes they weren't venomous, and that they'd stay out of her work and living spaces. Hey, me, too.

It was no trick at all to gently work the tongs in that loop of snake sticking out and ease her down into the can. She was still a bit sluggish from the winter. An April copperhead is an early one, but it's Beth's second of the season. We usually don't see them until July at our house.


Probably a female, getting on to 3' long. The thing to do here was to relocate her. Since I was all suited up with my muckboots on and had her contained, I offered to find a spot for her. I kinda know the spots around here. I thought as I drove, and made up my mind. I turned down a very steep dirt road toward an abandoned house I thought might offer dry harbor for a frightened copperhead. 

Where nobody would go. 

At least nobody would go without expecting to see a copperhead there.

Cricks are up a bit, I noticed. 


Road was getting washed out in a hurry. By now it was pouring, another frog-drowner in full swing.


The display of ancient daffodils by the house I chose. I call this one Raggedy Ann, a shaggy double variety, but the ones at this homestead are a neat variant with sharp-pointed, longer leaves and a distinctly star-shaped flower. Raggedy Ann is the oldest daffodil around, the most likely to be found in really old abandoned farmsteads around here. I'm told she's the first daffodil the colonists brought from England.


I dumped the can out and was very glad I was wearing my high muck boots, because Mrs. Snake wasn't so thrilled at being dumped. She took a bead on me and struck.


Don't worry. I was holding the can lid in front of me because I figured she might strike. Inside of her mouth was white, almost like a cottonmouth. Science Chimp, always taking notes. She got gone in a hurry.  


I was very pleased that it was so dry under the old flooring. On my way down here, I had looked at and rejected a number of natural rock ledges for possible release because they were too wet. If she'd wanted to be wet, she wouldn't have climbed up above Beth's door.  Note the skull to the right.


Housecat, along with a bunch of its scattered, chewed up bones. Keep 'em inside, folks. Coy-wolves love 'em.


Copperhead Castle, from inside. It's a fixer-upper, but it's got charm. And hey! it's got copperheads and cat skulls.

I will confess to totally loving getting that call, relocating a nice snake to a reasonably suitable place, and helping out a wonderful neighbor who's helped us out a bunch. I made Beth pose for a commemorative shot. Country girls, doin' it for theyselfs.


I know who she reminds me of in this photo. My hero of heroes.



The shots in this post are not up to my usual standards, but you try photographing a copperhead over your head when you have enough adrenaline running through your veins to kill a cow. OK, now wrassle it gently down without hurting it.

Now go see Beth's incredible art. I own several of her recent paintings. You should too!

This one hangs on my bedroom wall. It spoke to me. I can't imagine why.


15 comments:

Julie, you're just awesome. Period.

I used to hear stories about copperheads from my co-worker when I lived in Raleigh, NC. She lived in a cabin out in the country and they liked to come in out of the rain and also slither out of the high grasses surrounding her property. I saw a few on the roads in the short time I was there. Copperheads are a formidable snake.

So glad you are both safe. I lived on Vermillion Bayou as a child in Louisiana and gained huge respect for those suckers. Our neighbor across the street, an avid gardener, was killed by a copperhead. Her husband found her in her favorite garden in the back yard when he came home that night.

Please take care.

I admit to being quite glad that except along the Mississippi bluffs we are very unlikely to encounter a venomous snake around here (Minnesota). When I took the MN master naturalist class, I was assigned to research the timber rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus. I came away with a greater understanding and even theoretical liking of this shy creature, but I'll be okay with keeping the liking theoretical. Hurray for all you do, Julie.

A great thanks for saving one of God's creatures . And thanks for the story.

I would not have had the nerve. The most I've done with copperheads is toss pebbles at them to encourage them to move off our hiking trail.

Eek! NC has the unfortunate distinction of having the most copperhead bites of any state in the country. I found a number of them as a camp counselor last summer and they always give me pause. My poor dog got bitten a few years ago on the foot, it was summer and the nasty critter was out late and we just about stepped on it. He was two steps ahead of me, he got bitten instead of me, it was a little baby.

I didn't know you had copperheads in Ohio!! Learned something new.
Tammy in Al.

Posted by Anonymous April 10, 2015 at 6:09 PM

Loved your blog and pics, but have to say I probably wouldn't have been as honorable as you. Would have probably grabbed a hoe as my Buckeye chickens are the mouse-catchers around here. Thanks for the Nash art. What a fitting piece for you. I have the honor of working with Sherm, so I get to enjoy her work on the walls of his classroom. Happy Spring!

Posted by BSpaziani April 10, 2015 at 6:23 PM

Copperheads are almost nonexistent here in snake nirvana. They seem thick as fleas in Ohio.
Good adventure!

I am so glad to hear your respect and care for the snake. Too often snakes are just killed because people find them to be unattractive and frightening. They are beautiful creatures that are an important part of nature. Great job Julie!

Wow. What days we are having and how your tales of adventure enrich them! Yay for snake-saving, beautifully recounted and documented. And yay for Beth's beautiful painting.
Whipple, Ohio, where it's at.
And yay to the awesome ditch digger, too.
Love,xxoom.

Posted by Anonymous April 11, 2015 at 1:59 PM

That snake hook looks like a handy tool to have laying around.

I want to call you a b--a--, but that just sounds so rude. Brave and brawny, then. Big heart. Cheers for the women who respect and revere that which could kill them, and let--help--it continue to live. (just somewhere a bit down the road, please).

And oh yes, if only you could send some of your rain our way, how grateful our trees and birds, our shrubs and mammals would be. We're thirsty. Well, but that would require one superpower you don't have--yet.

Beautiful snake! It's a species we don't have here in central Florida.

It's good to have a secondary skill such as this, just in case that day job gig doesn't pan out .....

I love all your pictures and stories and this one was particularly entertaining! I don't even know anyone who has a snake hook!

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