Know Your Snake!

It is that time of the year that snakes are most active, this means you need to know your snake!

Rattlesnakes raise an alarm for most humans.  Their bite can be deadly if left untreated.  Residents in the Valley Springs area have a terrible time with rattlesnakes, especially in the Gold Creek area.  There’s an urban legend that when the Gold Creek area was excavated, a pit of rattlesnakes was unearthed.  Backhoe’s, tractors and the like were used to kill the thousands of snakes found in the pit, but all of them could not be killed, leaving the new homeowners many  rattlesnakes to deal with in the following years.  If true, the homeowners certainly are trying to deal with all the rattlesnakes.  In just one week, twelve rattlesnakes were found in the yards of the residents.

Rattlesnakes

Found in my yard in La Contenta. A spray of water and he was on his way. If you are concerned about an area in your yard, spray it with water before going into it. It may drive out the snake, but not always.
Can you see the snake? I wish they didn’t have such awesome camo!

You need to know your snakes because not all snakes are rattlesnakes.  As a matter of fact, some snakes prey on rattlesnakes.  For example, the King snake is native to the Valley Springs area and they prey on rattlesnakes.  Somewhat immune to the rattlesnake venom, King snakes will dine on rattlesnakes.

King Snake

The variety of King snake’s is far too large to picture on this short post.  A link to Wikipedia has a good list with links to further reading on the various specific King snakes here.

A mnemonic rhyme I learned as a child can assist you in remembering what to look for:  “Red touch black, friend of Jack.  Red touch yellow, kill a fellow”. This only applies to the Coral snakes of Northern America.

Unfortunately the King snake is misidentified by laymen and are thus killed.  As quoted on Wikipedia: “When disturbed, California King snakes will often coil their bodies to hide their head, hiss and rattle their tail.”  This tail rattling has confused humans in thinking they have encountered a rattlesnake, when it is actually a King snake.  The rattling sound produced is similar to a rattlesnake, yet it is not.

The King snake, birds of prey and hedgehogs, enjoy a rattlesnake dinner. The main predator being birds of prey.  With this knowledge you can make your home less attractive to the Rattlesnake!

  • Being prey for birds such as Falcon and Eagles, the rattlesnake will avoid open area’s where it has no cover for protection.  Maintaining a short lawn is a good idea.  If a rattlesnake has a choice between your short-cut lawn, or the neighbors overgrown weeds, well that seems an obvious choice.
  • Remove debris and trash from the perimeter of your house.  When you encounter a snake behind your trash can, or lawn clippings pile, it isn’t because the snake enjoys scaring people, or hiding from them.  He is most likely lying in wait for a mouse, or rat, to toddle by.  The spot the snake has taken to lie in will be the path the mice and rats use to invade your home, plus it affords cover from flying predators.  This holds true for inside the home and garage. The Rattle snake takes refuge where the rodents go.
  • Products on the market that are labeled as snake repellent does not work.  Snakes do not have a sense of smell like humans.  A repellent relies on a repulsive odor, but snakes will not be repelled by something they can’t smell.
  • Snakes are avid swimmers, but they prefer to enter the water on their own.  A garden hose sprayed at a snake will make it slither away quite quickly.
  • The best way to rid your yard of snakes is to call a snake trapper.  They will come to your home and remove the offending snake.  Often they can identify what attracted the snake in the first place and can sometimes locate where there may be another.  The snake is then removed from your property and set free in a non-populated area.  Killing every snake you come upon is so inappropriate and irresponsible, don’t get me started!  They were here first, and when humans are gone from the face of the earth, they will be here last!

A helpful, downloadable .pdf with photo’s and a detailed description of King snakes can be found here.

Another excellent pictorial for identifying snakes is available here.

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