Uncoiled

ratsnake ratsnake2This handsome black rat snake was in a neighbor’s yard, tangled in the plastic netting used to deter deer from browsing on plants. Dozens of strands of netting were bunched around the snake, completely immobilizing the strong body. Some work with small scissors (points held out!) freed the animal who was unharmed enough to tongue the air at me, then launch a little jabbing strike that stopped well short of contact.

It is rat snake breeding season, so the animal no doubt has a social life to be getting on with. I returned it to the adjoining woods.

29 thoughts on “Uncoiled

  1. Anonymous

    I have often worried about deer netting being a hazard to snakes. Am so glad that you were able to give this s/he a hand.

    Reply
  2. Gretta

    I once freed a very large, long fat snake that was very tangled in netting — so much that the netting was cutting into the skin. I was a little nervous as I cut through all the threads one by one. The snake was also pretty nervous — but we both survived! My two little girls were very proud of their brave Mommy!

    Reply
  3. Donna Black

    Thanks for saving this guy. Glad he cooperated. Tis the season. I moved a robin fledgling out of the middle of the road much to the alarm of a good number of adult robins, and redirected a couple of turtles already this spring.

    Reply
  4. Alexia

    I’ve had this same experience. After the first scissors-cut, the snake got very quiet and stayed that way until it was free, then slipped away. Since then, I’ve replaced netting with chicken wire — at least for the lowest couple feet of the deer barrier.

    Reply
  5. Lisa Knaus

    Could I send you a photo of a black snake I saw in New York State a year ago and HUGE! with a zig zag pattern. Never saw such a large snake in the wild.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    We have similar issues with bull snakes, and oddly enough all the neighbors who were concerned about their berries all help to free snakes… And not to read too much into a snake’s demeanor, they do seem grateful with a sniff, hiss, and strike fake.

    Reply
  7. John Scharpen

    Beautiful pictures of a beautiful snake! I’m glad that you were on hand to rescue it. I had to do the same thing with a Gopher Snake found in the garden shed at work last year (I work at an outdoor school/science camp). It was so entangled that at first I thought it was dead, but when I touched it, it hissed at me. After working with scissors and a nail clipper (for the close-up work), we managed to remove all of the plastic garden netting. The lesson here is: make sure that you store this type of thing somewhere out of reach of snakes.
    Here’s the Gopher Snake, before and after: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crow/7381324332
    and http://www.flickr.com/photos/crow/7381317768/in/photostream/

    Reply
  8. Judy Magavero

    We stopped using bird netting for fencing after an unfortunate black snake got itself entangled. The netting was starting to cut into its skin- the netting keeps the snake from sliding backwards. We freed the poor thing. It slithered off, only to become entangled again.

    Reply
      1. Anonymous

        “Yet under | reason burns a brighter fire, which the bones | have always preferred…

        It is the light at the center of every cell.
        It is what sent the snake coiling and flowing forward
        happily all spring through the green leaves before
        he came to the road.”

        Reply
  9. Jim Markowich

    Exceptional head-on photos!

    As a person who likes snakes, but has a hard time overcoming that chill-up-the-back when it comes to handling them (even small ones, like a red-bellied or a ring neck), that business about carefully freeing it is impressive to me. The phrase “completely immobilizing” helps, as my imagination goes toward it twisting and fidgeting muscularly, not to mention trying to bite. Did none of that happen?

    Then there are photos like William’s (earlier in the commentary) — I marvel that people actually just go in there and grab big snakes behind their heads. Do they not have any inborn snake fear, or do they overcome it by practicing some kind of herpetological reiki?

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Hi Jim,

      Snakes are (for good reason) one of the harder animals to think about handling. I’d say that for me the most important thing is knowing from experience that I can hold the animal safely. A firm grasp behind the head really does work. When they are entangled, they are pretty passive, so the biting and thrashing only start once they are free.

      I suspect that, as with many aspects of human behavior, both experience and natural variation play a part. Sometimes stupid bravado also comes into play: highly gender-specific usually. No surprise there.

      Best wishes, David

      Reply

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