Friday, June 18, 2010

A Coachwhip Goes to School

I received a text message several weeks ago with a picture attached of a large coiled snake. Seconds later my phone rang and it was my wife who’s a teacher saying the picture was of a snake that was at the school where she works. This is the second time I’ve gone there for a nature related incident. If you recall from a previous post, I went there to retrieve a dead Cooper’s hawk that had crashed into one of the school’s windows.

When I arrived there was my wife with several other teachers and students observing the snake, which turned out to be an eastern coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum flagellum), coiled up behind a large wooden pallet that was leaning up against the building. I've written several blog entries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) related to this specific snake in the past.

I reached with my snake hook and began pulling the snake towards me, which immediately generated an aggressive response. The old saying that a snake can hit a target with its strike up to a distance of half its body length was confirmed today as it came within inches of hitting me in the face.

I’ve caught several of these snakes in the Big Thicket and none of them exhibited the aggressiveness that they are well known for, but here’s one that has survived thus far in a residential area that displayed every one of the intimidating behaviors I’ve read about. The serpent repeatedly struck at me letting me know that it wanted to be left alone, but I knew if I didn’t capture and relocate it, it would surely be introduced to the fine edge of a shovel.

After trying several times to pull it towards me it decided to dart rapidly in the opposite direction out from behind the pallet. When this happened everyone watching scattered, except that is, for my wife- instead she ran towards it. You have to know my wife. She has Cajun blood coursing through her veins and is not afraid of much. Not even a four foot long pissed-off coachwhip. The other teachers stood in disbelief as she cornered it preventing its escape until I got there. I then forced it into a large plastic container and slapped the lid on it. The next day I drove up to our place in the woods and released it where it will have a much better chance of surviving.

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