Friday March 7, 2014
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Way back when Lolly and I first moved up here I learned something important. Why I have never thought to pass it on I don't know. But here it is:
The first little structure I put up when we first moved to Pine was a small garden shed, a nice little thing, painted barn red with white trim. It's still there and still looking great.
I didn't have a light on it because I hadn't run power to the back of the property at that time, so in my complete innocence of the ways of the Rim Country I was glad that Ralph King our next door neighbor — gone now, God bless him — had a floodlight on his shed which lighted the area out back when I had to go to the garden shed for something.
One cool October night, on my way to the garden shed, I saw something move on the ground under Ralph's floodlight. I stopped to look and saw the biggest rattler I have ever seen, well over five feet long. That surprised me because conventional wisdom is that when the daily average goes below 60º snakes are no longer active at night. I didn't let it bother me too much; I just got what I needed, stopped over at Ralph's place and warned him about it, and that was that.
Until the next night.
The next night I'm hanged if I didn't see another one. The difference? This one, though smaller — about four feet long — was crossing my yard, headed for Ralph's shed. And the way it went under the chain link fence through a small, smooth gap told me that I was looking at a "snake highway."
"What the (bleep)?" I said.
Back in Connecticut the 60º rule always held. I wondered what was different here? And where all those rattlers were going? And why?
Didn't take long to figure it out. The main thing? The low both of those night was 34º but that hadn't stopped the rattlers because the daytime high was 77º and it was still around 65º at nine o'clock when I was on my way to the shed.
Arizona, right? Dry air? A difference between night and day of 40 degrees at times?
But why were the rattlers there?
Please go to next post.
It didn't take long to realize why the rattlers were in my yard.
October. Cool weather. Getting colder. The 87 million bugs that usually fly, crawl, or hop around up here are dying out. In fact, by the middle of the month most of them are gone. Only the ones that manage to live through an almost freezing night make it.
Ralph's floodlight, nice and warm. Attracts bugs. Bugs fly to light and get fried. Bugs fall on ground under light. Field mice, now deprived of their usual bug bonanza feed on crisp fried bugs. And.....
You got it! Rattlers, no longer able to find enough field mice in the woods and along the creek, and able to "see" them in the dark because they are pit vipers, feast on the mice.
Works during the summer months too I now know.
Motion detector units. Light is only on for a few minutes. Bugs are not attracted to light. Mice are not attracted by friend bugs. Rattlers are not attracted by mice.
That solution works. Haven't seen a rattler since it was done.
By the way, here's a statement you can read in any reference you go to, a statement I truly hate: "Although the bite of a rattlesnake is serious and should always receive immediate attention, deaths from rattlesnake bites are rare."
Right! Thank you, genius writer. You forgot to mention the important part!
Snakes have teeth intended to grip and hold prey; they do not have the kind of cutting and grinding teeth we have. They swallow their prey whole. Therefore their venom contains substances which begin digesting their prey before they swallow it. If you are bitten by a rattlesnake — God forbid! — you are in for a long recovery, a lot of pain, and damage to muscle tissue which can very well cause a permanent disability.
I am going to put up just one image for you to see. It is not as extreme as many I could put up, and it is taken after the hand that was bitten was beginning to recover, but it makes the point: Do everything you can to avoid attracting rattlers to your home.
DO NOT click on this link if you are squeamish! But if you have never seen a snake bite (I have, br-r-r-r-r!), and you want to see what one really looks like, click on it, take a look, and click your Back button to return to the forum — and yell at me for putting up such scary picture. :-)
If you would like to read about a very courageous teenager who went through hell after a rattlesnake bite, you can click on this link, which is the one from which the image above was taken. There are pictures on the site, but you do not have to see them. You can read the whole story without ever seeing even one. You have to click on a link to get to them. It is a very moving tale, one worth reading.
I'll add just one more little comment for you.
When we first came up here Lolly and I used to shop in Foxworth all the time because we were constantly improving the house and yard. Lolly, being the kind of person she is, got to know a couple of the female clerks in there very well. One day we walked in and Lolly said to me, "Oh, look at (name); she looks terrible today. I wonder what's wrong?"
As we went through the checkout, Lolly told her new friend that she hoped she was feeling well. What she told us was one of the scariest stories I've ever heard.
This was a long time ago so the details are fuzzy, but they don't make much difference. She had a nice garden (in Pine or Strawberry) and she kept it lighted at night to keep the animals away as some people do. She went out into her garden early one morning to pick something (tomatoes?). As she stepped into the garden among the plants she stepped directly on a rattlesnake. By sheer good luck she happened to step on it directly behind its neck. The rattler, as mad as they get, tried its best to squirm its head around and bite her on the foot or ankle, but couldn't quite make it. Writhing, it wrapped itself around her leg and kept on trying to get leverage to get its head in a position to strike at her. She dared not step off because she knew she would get bitten. She lived alone and all she could do was scream for help. Fortunately, a neighbor heard her, saw what was going on, got a revolver, ran over to her garden and blew the head off the rattler.
Can you imagine how you would feel if that happened?
I don't know what I would have been more afraid of, the snake or the neighbor with the gun.
A shovel or hoe chops off their heads very well.
I know what you mean, Pat. But this was too close.
Either way, my night lights are all motion detectors. They are off except when they are needed and they do not attract bugs, which attract field mice, which attract rattlers.
Anybody read that story about the teenager? Brave kid. That story is an education. And if you can handle the pics that go with it you will never, ever take a chance on a rattler bite again.
I once was walking down Pine Creek below Pine with a friend, headed south. You know what that bed is like; it's nothing but stones, large and small. My friend kept stepping up stones and off their southern sides.
"Don't do that,"I told him. "Never step off a log or a stone when you can't see what's on the other side."
"Why?" he asked me.
Perfect timing! I pointed at a four foot rattler sunning itself below a large boulder.
He wanted to quit walking, but we kept on until we got to the blackberry bushes we were headed for. You should have seen him when I told him we had to approach carefully because it was possible there would be black bears there.
I'll never forget the time I saw a poor raccoon dying of rabies. The poor thing groaned just like a human. Broke my heart.
We live among animals. The trick is to LIVE among them. :-)
I have stepped on 2 rattlers and strattled 2....never been bit...but I still have nightmares.
It's what happens when your'e raised in Az.
Tom, I've never thought about the lights before.....never to old to learn. Thanks
Wow! Stepped on two rattlers? I'd be having nightmares all right!
And it is just a part of being here in Arizona — or the Southwest for that matter. If you are unacquainted with Connecticut it may come as a big shock to find that the number of copperheads in Connecticut is VERY high. I know. I used to roam the woods around New London all the time, and they were everywhere!
You know why we step on pit vipers? Their usual mode if surprised is to stay still. I suppose that evolves from the fact that most people don't see them. I have MANY times seen snakes that froze when they spotted me in the woods — rattlers too. So there you are, tootling along, a rattler sees you, freezes, and gets stepped on. Thank God I can see them.
The reason it's so easy for me to spot them is that I'm colorblind. I don't look for colors the way most people do; I look for shapes. To most people, a copperhead coiled up among dried leaves is "invisible," but not to me. That coiled up shape jumps out at me. It is an plain to see as a dalmatian lying in the middle of a lawn. So I laugh when I read forums where people say, "Oh, they're found in Connecticut but not in large numbers."
How would seeing 8 on a casual summer stroll through the woods near a fairly large town be for "large numbers?" :-)
That's one advantage of being colorblind by the way. If you ever enlist in the military and they send you out in combat in a set of those "camouflage" fatigues, you better hope the guy on the other side isn't colorblind. He can pick you out so easily it's almost funny. Want to hide? Get yourself one of those shaggy grass getups the special forces use. They work because they break up your shape.
We used to have ordinary green fatigues (which for 21 years I thought were brown), and they blended in nicely with most terrain. They were sort of — oh-h-h-h — nondescript. Know what I mean? Something that just doesn't jump out at you? But just as I was retiring someone came out with those new things — those "leafy" jobs. I could pick out a man lying in a field at the very limit of my eyesight in one of those.
I'll never forget some wet behind the ears second lieutenant who told me, "You can't see that man, sergeant! He's well concealed!"
Okay, your lieutenantship. If you say so. But is it okay if I shoot him, sir? Just to make my point? :-)
Anyway, copperheads are very common in CT. We also had timber rattlesnakes, but I only saw about five of them in all the time I was there.
Here's a pic of a northern copperhead like most of the ones I saw. Not all of them looked like this. Some had almost no markings and so must have been some sub-species.
Any snake I see is a dead snake if it is possible for me to find something to kill it with.
Rocks, hoes, shovels or whatever.
Did you know there is one rattlesnake that is or was on the endangered list? They were not to be killed. My husband and a FS employee were riding the range at our ranch when they saw a snake, my husband pulled out his gun and shot it while the FS employee was telling him to wait, as they had to check to see if it was endangered. My husband shot it and said they are all endangered if I see one. He cut the rattles off and gave them to the FS man.
I am not a fan of snakes. It seems to be that way with almost all humans. There is something we do not like about things that hide in the shadows, slither around in the grass, and carry a venomous bite. It goes against of our natural concept of fairness. It is no surprise that we equate some people with "a snake in the grass." Too bad for the snakes, but there is no changing human nature.
As to endangered species, as I have said I do not know how many times, I was an active conservationist back when it was something that fell below most people's radar. But I am not stupid. I know the difference between preserving species that should be preserved and those which should be ruthlessly eradicated.
What is wrong with some people? Why they can't see nature as it really is?
Nature — life itself — is a competition for survival. Those things which are not harmful to us should survive. Those which are harmful should be eradicated. Following the illogic of the so-called environmentalists we would have to preserve smallpox, cholera, and plague. And why not? Answer just two questions:
Are they not species?
Do they not have therefore the "right" to live like anything else?
Unless you are willing to answer yes to both of those, your argument that all species should survive is without merit; it is a false premise, based on emotion instead of common sense.
What does that mean? It means that even now we pick and choose which species should survive, and we therefore must create laws which recognize that fact, and revise our thinking to change the goal to, "The survival in the wild of those species which are not hazardous to humankind, along with those whose survival is a matter of sufficient economic or esthetic importance to humankind to merit our attention."
Notice those words "in the wild." They are key. It may be that we would like to retain some species which are hazardous to humankind. Those, we keep in zoos. Not in the woods outside your backyard.
And one last word....
I hate to roll out the big guns, but in this context there is no choice.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
Until we receive a message canceling that one, I choose to go with it.
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