VENOMOUS NEIGHBOURS

It’s rattlesnake season again. This year, the poor snakes are rather confused – whenever it warms up and they try to come out of hibernation, a new bout of cold and wet weather sends them back into their holes. According to their calendar, it’s time to resume their social life but the elements are not cooperating and I started seeing baby snakes hopefully sunning themselves in the middle of the road but still sleepy enough to be easily flattened by passing car tires.

I am not a big fan of snakes but since moving to this canyon I have taken a live and let live attitude – as long as they don’t get it into their heads to attack me (and they don’t really, unless provoked) I will just circle around them. When I take Ottie for walks now, I have to keep my eyes glued to the ground and, upon seeing one, I screech and yank him to the other side of the road – confused as much as the snake, he obliges. So far, he hasn’t taken much of an interest in them and I wonder if he has inner alarm bells that go off in their presence as he will chase after every lizard, bird, squirrel, possum and frog running in his line of vision. But not snakes.

A rattlesnake bite, especially from a young one whose venom is fresh and powerful, I am told will cause swelling, severe flu- like symptoms, with fever, chills and monstrous pain for a few days. It’s not lethal in humans (I once met someone who boasted having survived a bite without taking the anti-venom, bragger..) but it is often in dogs as they typically get bit on their faces while poking their noses where they shouldn’t and a human might not necessary be around to whisk them immediately to a clinic. Despite Ottie’s reluctance to strike a friendship with rattlers, I am investing in a vaccine next week that will buy me more time to get him to a ER should he get bitten.

Last week, my neighbour A. let me know that a rattlesnake had appeared under some rocks in her garden. When I asked her for an update over the week-end, she informed me it was gone, before the snake re-locator (yes, there is such a job) could make his way over. Where do they re-locate them anyway? Someone else’s property, a park where people go hiking? I did not enquire. Well, Joe the snake relocated himself near my garage – he could be seen today coiled next to a pile of decorative rocks, enjoying the fading sun.

Joe the rattler

I am really against killing any life form but I started pondering what my options were. I could have called the re-locator who probably wouldn’t hurry over as he hadn’t for my neighbour. A phone call the County Wildlife Protection Dept would have been useless – with all the budget cuts unless I call to report the sighting of a crocodile in my yard no one will give a shit. Option number 3 was the Executioner – he would rather be called The Snake Charmer and is an extremely renowned plastic surgeon living nearby who, when not reconstructing people’s faces, enjoys horse riding and hunting and owns a snake gun. Yes, there is such a thing and when he first showed it to me I considered purchasing one – I am also against guns in principle and I eventually abandoned my plan because I know I am too much of a wuss to ever use it.

“Mal, there is snake in my front yard – are you up for some target practice?”

“I will be right over”

For about half an hour I kept on stealing glances towards Joe the snake, knowing I had sealed his fate. He was fat and happy, fresh out of a long sleep but he had taken up residence too close for Ottie’s comfort. It took five (very loud) shots to dispatch Joe to its maker. Mal severed the head once the deed was done (are they like vampires?) and told me the body would keep on moving for several hours. I watched mesmerized as both the head and the body writhed and crawled.

Maybe tomorrow I will hang Joe over my gate to discourage any other rattlers from moving into my ‘hood. See if that works.

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