Monday, March 21, 2011

Snakes Like Rats!

OK... so I tell the world I have rat blood and what shows up in my house almost immediately? A snake!! And of course I have no idea what kind of snake it is... and I did take a picture.. actually several, the one on the right is the only one that came out.

It's kind of freaky to have a snake in your house - especially when he right away hides under the furniture, and you don't know what kind of a snake he even is because you didn't get a close enough look what with all the screaming... ok... I didn't actually scream... but I wasn't exactly calm either.

So, I left him in his little hiding place, called my son-in-law to come help me, and while I was waiting for him, I went on a web search for how to catch a snake in your house.

I found a tutorial on how to catch a snake, I called my son-in-law up and made him come over and help me find it. He wasn't hard to find, and catching him was amazingly simple - I'll post that tutorial here in a minute.

At first we thought he kind of looked like a baby copperhead. His little head did look triagular - and his markings (although you can't see them in the picture) did seem to go crossways, he was kind of a coppery color, and what with the pond so close to the house ... (I hadn't read the part about the brightly colored tails yet). But I couldn't bring myself to kill him, he was so cute! So we just let him loose in the field.

Then I started to worry that I might have saved a baby copperhead - and how smart was that really what with my granddaughter and my cats... so I looked up Poisonous Snakes in Missouri. Here's what I found:

According to the University of Missouri Extension Center, it's easy to figure out which snakes are poinsonous. Here's what they say on their website:

All of Missouri's poisonous snakes are members of the pit viper family, and you easily can distinguish them from harmless snakes. Three ways exist to distinguish poisonous snakes in Missouri:

Identifying a poisonous snake by its pupils.

Harmless snakes have round pupils (the black part in the center of the eye). Poisonous snakes have egg-shaped or cat-like (elliptical) pupils. In good light, you easily can see the pupil shape from a safe distance because snakes cannot jump, nor can they strike, from more than one-third of their body length.

Poisonous snakes in Missouri also have a conspicuous sensory area or pit (hence the name "pit viper") on each side of the head. The pit looks somewhat like a nostril and helps the snake locate warm-bodied food. It is located about midway between and slightly below the eye and nostril. Harmless snakes do not have pits.

Identifying a poisonous snake by its tail.

The underside scales of a poisonous snake's tail go all the way across in a single row from the anal plate. The tip of the tail may have two scale rows. Nonpoisonous snakes have two rows of scales from the vent to the end of the tail. This characteristic also can be seen on skins that may have been shed.

Other features may help you identify a poisonous snake at a distance:

Usually, poisonous snakes have a triangular (wide at the back and attached to a narrow neck) or "spade-shaped" head. Be aware that many other harmless snakes flatten their heads when threatened and may appear poisonous.

Usually, rattlesnakes sound a warning rattle (a buzz or a dry, whirring sound) when approached. However, many nonpoisonous snakes (black racers, corn snakes, rat snakes, milk snakes and pine snakes) and several poisonous snakes (copperhead and cottonmouth) often vibrate their tails when threatened. The sound produced by this vibration often imitates a rattle or hissing sound when the snake is sitting in dry grass or leaves.

Snakes with lengthwise-striped markings are nonpoisonous. Most solid-colored snakes also are nonpoisonous, except the adult western cottonmouth, which has dark crossbands that often are indistinct. If a snake is marked in any other way, use other characteristics for identification.

You easily can recognize young cottonmouths and copperheads by their bright yellow or greenish yellow tails.

Whew! Now that's a sigh of relief -

As you can see though, his pupils are round, he was probably just flaring his head trying to look scary. and his tail was the same color as the rest of him... so... probably it was just a little garter snake...

Oh and by the way!

Here's something else I found out. Snakes in Missouri are protected by state law. The Wildlife Code of Missouri treats snakes, lizards and most turtles as nongame. This means there is no open season on these animals, and it is technically illegal to kill them. Of course, realistic exceptions exist, such as when a poisonous snake comes in close contact with humans, which could result in someone getting bitten. You should get a collecting permit from the Missouri Department of Conservation before attempting to catch and keep a snake.

How'd we catch it? We found his little hiding place and threw a towel over him and then picked him up.


Here's a tutorial with some other ideas.

Occasionally, homeowners find a snake inside the home, usually in a basement or crawl space. Snakes are attracted to these areas by the warmth on cold days and the shade on hot days. They may enter through a hole around the foundation or an open or loose door or basement window. If this occurs, you need to get the snakes out, then seal the holes.

You increase your chances of capturing a snake in the house by placing in areas where snakes have been seen some rumpled, damp cloths covered by dry cloths. Snakes are attracted to these areas. You then can remove the whole works, snake and cloths, or capture the snake individually. A good way to remove a snake is to sweep it with a broom into a large bucket.

Here he is.
Isn't he cute?

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