Snakes on their own against gardener

Pennsylvania residents are spread across the commonwealth from the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with the majority living rurally or semi-rurally. I guess in my case I live semi-rurally with a plus towards rural.

The difference is how many animals you have in your yard from time to time. My wife and I live on several acres of virgin oak, and we are pretty much a zoo without regular hours.

Squirrels come and go on a regular basis, and each morning my wife’s dog, Misty, blasts out the door to make sure none of them are walking on the grass. When she has them all safely clinging to the side of a tree, she proceeds to take her morning bathroom break in privacy.

I am sure the squirrels think it is a game, as they often climb only high enough to let her pass underneath with mere inches separating them. Rabbits are similar except they normally only run to the first bush and “hole-up.”

I have turkey in the yard on occasion and deer on a regular basis. I once looked out the window to see three bucks carefully examining my deer target. I supposed they were warning him that this was their territory and to move on or there would be hell to pay.

One evening a family of raccoons peered at us from a tree next to the patio, and birds are constantly at our numerous feeders. While we have had the occasional bear visit us in the past, this year we had one who I think was considering buying the place. He showed up about every second or third night.

One night I turned around to see his nose pressed against the family room window, and I assumed he was waiting for us to turn to the nature channel. My wife had several bird feeders hanging from those fancy hooked metal poles and as the bear emptied each feeder, he bent the pole over at 90 degrees. I assumed he did that so he knew which ones he emptied and which ones were still full. As Yogi Bear would say, “He was smarter than the average bear.”

My wife and I are lifelong hunters and nature lovers, and we get along well with wildlife – or in my wife’s case, almost.

Several times during bow season, she has had close bear encounters without getting too excited. Even when she was in a tree stand and a bear climbed up to visit, she handled it like a pro.

However, the one thing that does get her speaking in a high pitched voice are snakes, which brings me to the story that occurred here several weeks ago.

I had just pulled into the driveway when she came running up with her garden shovel.

“Hurry,” she stammered. “There is a big snake in my flower garden, and I want you to kill it.”

“Easy,” I replied, “It is probably just a garter snake.”

“NO,” she replied. “To you everything is a garter snake. This was a big one, probably a copperhead or maybe even a rattlesnake.”

She shoved my .357 pistol into my hand and walked behind me toward her flower garden pointing with her shovel.

“He was right there,” she said motioning toward some trampled flowers.

I stepped between the flowers, my eyes searching the ground and then I saw it, a few drops of blood and a small piece of snake. Then I spotted more pieces and finally the head.

“I have to apologize,” I said. “That snake has a big head.”

“See, I told you so,” she said waving her shovel in circles in the air. “What kind was it,” she asked, “a copperhead or a rattlesnake?”

“Well my best guess is it was about an 18-inch garter snake with a 1-inch head. But after you got done beating him with your shovel, he is now in nine 2-inch pieces and his head is flat as a pancake and about the size of a small pizza. Even his mother could not recognize him. I don’t think I can kill him any deader unless an emergency medical crew can put him back together again.”

“Just get rid of him. I hate snakes,” she said, heading toward the house sweeping the grass in front of her with the shovel.

I am sure that little snake was scared as heck and just crawling for his life when what seemed to him like a giant with a shovel attacked him. If that is what she did to a garter snake I’d hate to be the copperhead or rattlesnake that ventures into her flower garden. It’s every snake for himself.

John Kasun writes from his Duncansville-area home, which is surrounded by wildlife and occasionally a snake with a death wish.