We get snakes aplenty in the yards around our “main” home here on less than an acre butting up against the banks of the Brazos River. Wildlife abounds in the wide green strip of trees and vegetation along the river, and that includes reptiles.
The Polka Farm, out west toward Austin, has a slightly drier climate, completely different vegetation, mostly oak and cedar woods, and only a seasonal creek and pond. The previous owner said he’d only seen two or three snakes in the several years he had the place, and until yesterday I hadn’t seen any myself, although the other side of the critter coin is that I’ve never seen a scorpion here along the Brazos, while the farmlands have lots of them.
I went out to the farm to mow yesterday, as the grass in a small field full of pecan trees was really overgrown. I rarely wear boots when mowing, but had a premonition and put on a tall rubber pair.
The snake sprang out of the tall grass in the middle of the field after I’d made a few passes on the tractor and was starting to cut the brush around the pecan trunks. It was a big beauty as far as copperheads go, at least the length of a yardstick and maybe as much as 40 inches, which is pretty long for one of these characters. It also looked like it had shed its skin, as the colors were vivid – triangular deep copper alternating with a bright tannish-pink.
The copperhead headed my way, and we met at the tree trunk I was about to trim. It got there first and tried to find a hole or some opening along the base of the trunk, but there was none. I turned the wheel hard to the left and mowed right up against the trunk, but looking back I saw the snake had flattened into the crease between tree and ground and ducked the tractor blades. I swung around for a better angle and tried again. Same result. Twice more, and the snake still stayed under the spinning steel.
I stopped for a second while keeping an eye on the serpent. I thought about riding back to the barn and bringing a machete or hoe, but the snake would probably just take off. So I lifted the mower unit with a foot pedal, then turned a dial lowering the blades from 3.5 to 2 inches. Then I started up and roared around the tree again. The copperhead raised up to consider an escape route while the tractor circled the tree, then tried to flatten out on the ground as the mower swung around, but the lower blades caught it in the middle of the body and pulverized it quickly and completely. Not a trace of the beast was left.
I was glad it died painlessly. I generally like snakes because they eat things that cause humans a fair amount of misery. I know a few people who will not harm any snake, and will catch and relocate the poisonous ones. My choice has always been to kill poisonous snakes on my land, because there’s too much potential damage to friends, family and animals to risk leaving them, and they’re risky to catch. Bosco, our catahoula hound, went head-to-head with a copperhead a few years ago and took a glancing bite to the throat, which swelled up like a grapefruit. Just this spring a neighbor down the road from us stepped on one while walking barefoot, and was hospitalized with a very nasty bite.
So while I appreciate their place and purpose, I advise all poisonous snakes either not to trespass, or leave your venom at home.