This is a post where it would be much nicer to have pictures from the event, rather than the one above that I snagged off a random web page. But I don’t always have that mind-set during an “event” to grab a camera and take pictures. Guess I’m not very photo-journalistic in that sense!
Anyway, we have a 3-board wooden fence around part of our property, and I had put some black netting on part of it at one point to keep deer from coming in. Later we put in woven wire fence instead, and I had forgotten to pull out the netting. Kelly got home and told me there was a snake stuck in the netting, so I grabbed a pair of scissors and a shovel and walked down with Riley.
It was pretty tangled in the netting, and couldn’t really move the upper half of its body. I confirmed it was either a black racer or a rat snake… Or, I should say, I made sure it wasn’t a “pit viper” kind of snake. In this area, the most common is the copper head, though we are just outside of the range of cotton mouths. In NC, there are 6 poisonous snakes, and 5 of them are pit vipers. The other is the coral (“red on yellow, dangerous fellow”). Pit vipers have a diamond shaped head, which is the biggest give away. And then they have fangs that they use to inject venom.
And again, in this area, the copper head is the main one to worry about, and they have a distinct pattern on their bodies. Numerous bold bands red-brown in color or a bit darker on the Northern Copperheads, are spread intermittently along the snake. They are shaped like an hour-glass and wrap around their wide body while creating a pattern with light and dark contrast:
So the snake in front of me was pretty plain — almost black, or very dark brown. Definitely not a copperhead!
Once I was sure it wasn’t poisonous, I went up to where it was stuck and started cutting the net away about 6 inches away from the snake, removed some leaves from a small tree, etc. until I could get it away from the fence. I then used the shovel to move it drive way, and then tried to use the shovel to pin its head down as best I could, and start cutting the net next to its body. It was really stuck — it had looped itself through many of the holes in the netting, and its body had expanded to where the netting was digging into its body. I cut as much as I could, but the snake was really struggling, and getting antsy, so it was hard to hold him down with the shovel.
By this time Kelly and Reece had come down to watch the show! I asked Kelly to go back to grab a flat blade shovel, since the round blade shovel on the gravel driveway was making it really difficult to hold.
I got to the point where I decided I’d have to grab it and cut the rest of the net away. I pinned its body an inch or two below its head with the shovel, and grabbed it with my right hand. I wanted it in my left so I could use the scissors with my right, but it felt more natural for me to grab with my right. As soon as I grabbed it — less than 1/2 inch from its head, it turned and grabbed a hold of my right index finger. It didn’t hurt much, though I could tell it was digging in. Maybe the adrenaline was masking the pain! 🙂 I wanted it in my left hand anyway, so I went ahead switched it, but now my grip was even lower, and of course it turned and bit me again, this time getting many more of its teeth into my left index finger. Again, it didn’t hurt much, but there wasn’t anything I could do but drop it down.
I had blood on both hands now, and Kelly was coming back and was surprised to hear (and see) what had happened!
Anyway, I then proceeded to use the shovel again to pin it down and get as much of the netting as I could. I am not sure I got 100% of it, though it looked like it, but this time when I let it up and it started slithering into the woods, I let it go. I tried to pin the netting to the ground as it left, and think I got most of it. There was only a tiny bit left and it looked to me like it was being drug under its body, and not attached, so hopefully it was mostly snipped or the snake was able to get the rest off. I’ll take a look there tomorrow to make sure it isn’t still around.
According to this page on rat snakes, they are scaly and let out a foul smelling musk when threatened. This one was pretty scaly — though maybe that was due to being torn up by the netting — but did not stink. So I am not sure if it was a rat snake or a racer. The two are often confused. The racer page does say racers bite repeatedly when picked up, and does not say that rat snakes bite. So I lean towards a racer — no smell and it did bite (though it did seem scaly).