The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.


most likely a copperhead snake due to not being in water

Today we had what we're pretty sure was a copperhead snake living underneath a piece of cardboard near Lucy's house which is also near the garden.

We briefly debated the option of killing it. Neither of us liked the idea of destroying something so beautiful, so we decided to carefully coax him into a 5 gallon bucket with a tempting piece of cardboard to hide under.

Once we had the lid on tight we walked him to a place pretty far away across the creek and tipped the bucket over.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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You're far more understanding than I would have been. But then I have small children. Any good pictures of its head?
Comment by Heath Thu Aug 2 18:39:42 2012
Great job! I hate to end a usefull life. Snakes are a valuable of the wildlife on a homestead.
Comment by Mona Thu Aug 2 18:52:20 2012

Must be snake time as I posted about our latest snake today. At least ours was only about a two foot garden snake. We don't kill snakes usually but there have been extenuating circumstances within the last seven years that doomed a six foot rattler and a somewhat smaller water moccasin to snake heaven. My bride does that as I just can't anymore. I find that my ability to kill has slipped away. My tiny experimental corn patch is giving me little ears that are better than candy bars. I call these little ears the "Fun Size".

Comment by Oldfool Thu Aug 2 18:58:49 2012

Heath --- Nope, we didn't get any good shots at all. I'm actually only 90% sure it was a copperhead and not a harmless water snake. My memory of the head was the right shape, but we didn't get any photos that would let me see the telling feature of the eyes and the few that showed the banding on the back looked more water-snake-like. It would be odd for a water snake to take up residence so far from a creek, but possible. (All the more reason not to kill it.)

Mona --- We totally agree! Usually, we leave snakes totally alone, but since this one was venomous (we think) and so close to our living area, we felt it needed to be moved on.

Oldfool --- We thought this might be an extenuating circumstance that would mean the end of the snake, but we just couldn't talk ourselves into doing the deed. If it had been aggressive at all, we might have had to, but it was actually very shy and seemed very inclined to run away, even when I accidentally sat down nearly on top of it yesterday while picking beans.

Comment by anna Thu Aug 2 19:31:40 2012
Did you consider eating it? After all, you did eat cicadas. I think eating snake now would be a piece of cake!
Comment by Dave V Thu Aug 2 20:38:50 2012
Hi, Mark and Anna--Your snake story had me breathless, esp. about Anna sitting on top of one! (I so well remember a snake that got in my car once, from its doors being left open at Wortroot, and how we discovered it on the dashboard! Panic erupted because we couldn't ID it, so not only were scrambling for a way to catch it, which we finally did, in a big pail, with a lid, but we were also searching wildly for the Reptile field guide!) Can you give a quick repeat of poisonous snake identification? Isn't a water mocassin poisonous? How to ID the copperhead vs the moccasin?--mom
Comment by adrianne Fri Aug 3 07:12:00 2012

Dave --- We never even thought of eating it. It seemed so beautiful --- much harder to kill than a deer or chicken.

Mom --- We're lucky that we only have two poisonous snakes in our area. Water moccasins are more southern, not extending this far north in the mountains.

Of the two poisonous species, rattlesnakes are pretty obvious --- they have a rattle on the end of their tails. :-) They're also unlikely to be found in a farm-type situation --- the one I nearly sat on a decade ago (what is it about me and sitting on poisonous snakes?) was on a rocky ledge up in the mountains, which is pretty typical.

Copperheads are more likely to be found where people hang out (although they're still not all that common). If you can see it, the eyes are the best ID feature --- they're a slit rather than round. This website gives good information on telling copperheads apart from other Virginia snakes.

Comment by anna Fri Aug 3 08:27:17 2012
I only really thought of eating it if it was necessary to kill it. If I felt I had to kill an animal for the safety of my family, I'd feel better if it wasn't beauty, wasted. I'm glad you relocated it, I bet the snake is too!
Comment by Anonymous Fri Aug 3 20:18:40 2012

Well, I have a general rule- if it is poisonous, and where kids play, I kill it. I can't be sure it won't come back if I move it, and although adults might survive a Japanese mamushi's bite, kids might not.

Also, the mamushi is not exactly a rare snake here.

There are thousands of hectares of unused land around our homestead. The snakes can live there in peace.

Also, I am way older than any snakes born around here, so I think I can safely say- Ego hic primum - I was here first.

Comment by Eric in Japan Sat Aug 4 09:38:16 2012

Dave --- Gotcha --- that makes a lot of sense.

Eric --- We might have just ignored the copperhead if it hadn't been right near Lucy (and if Lucy didn't have a thing for snakes), so I know where you're coming from. She's so much smaller than we are (and couldn't tell us what happened if she was bit), so a snake bit would be much more dangerous for her.

On the other hand, I figure across the creek and around the hill will probably keep this snake away for good. We'll see....

Comment by anna Sat Aug 4 09:48:05 2012

Our dog is actually our first line of defense against mamushi. Our dog loves us, and wants to protect my kids, so he is always walking in front, looking for snakes. He even leads us away from areas where they might be present. I don't know if he smells them or is just working from experience. Luckily, while dogs are not totally immune, they are very resistant to mamushi venom. Without our little guy, I would have been in the hospital at least once. He is like a furry little secret service agent.

Comment by Eric in Japan Sat Aug 4 09:55:57 2012
Eric --- It sounds like your mamushi are vastly worse than our copperheads. A little online research turns up the factoid that no one has ever been reported to die of a copperhead bite and that most don't even require antivenom. But Wikipedia reports that mamushi kill about 10 people a year and if you're bitten and survive you usually spend a solid week in the hospital. Yikes! I might kill them too....
Comment by anna Sat Aug 4 13:50:15 2012
Anna, that stream won't keep the snake from returning. They cover several acres, and if the hunting good where you found it the chances are good that it will return.
Comment by Heath Sat Aug 4 19:16:41 2012
Heath --- We'll keep our eyes open. No sign of it yet, so hopefully where we dropped it was outside its territory and it doesn't know the way back....
Comment by anna Sun Aug 5 12:54:19 2012
rattle snakes are very very common here. A neighbor is a snake lover, as we all should be, within reason, and kept capturing and releasing a rattler to a point a couple of miles away. The snake looked identical so he put a dab of bright yellow paint on it and sure enough it was the same snake returning over and over again so he had to finally dispatch it. While building our blacksmith shop we lived on site in our tent and had to kill many big rattlers ,three in one day even, but after we were operational with our big slab shaking power hammer up and running no more rattlers. The big power hammer literally shakes things off of tables so maybe the vibrations keep them away?Bob.
Comment by bob Mon Aug 6 08:56:16 2012
bob --- Smart to paint the snake to make sure the same one doesn't come back!
Comment by anna Mon Aug 6 12:00:41 2012

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