an unwelcome visitor

Living in the desert, you learn quickly that we (humans) are the visitors and that we are intruding in wildlife’s territory. This does not mean all interactions are negative, just that we need to use caution. Saturday we had a very unwelcome visitor trying to enter the front yard from the ocotillo fence – a diamondback rattlesnake.

I was walking towards the fence where I had placed Sophia’s pool (out of the way for the party) in order to fill it with water for her.  That tell-tale rattle stopped me immediately in my tracks and made me feel like I had ice water in my veins. I had thought I was over my snake-phobia after interacting more with snakes through work, but there’s nothing like that sound to make you freeze.  I looked around my immediate area and yelled for Jon to put Sophia & Lucy in the house because we had a rattlesnake somewhere nearby. Jon came over and saw the snake underneath the very pool I had been walking towards, caught in the ocotillo fencing.  Or I should say, caught in the chicken wire I had placed outside of the fencing to help keep wildlife like rabbits out of my garden. This wire had the unexpected benefit of trapping a snake…good for us, not so good for the snake. It was firmly caught – only a portion of its head and neck made it through the small holes and due to the fact it probably had been struggling there for some time, it was wedged tight and could not back out.

We didn’t know what to do. I’ve grown more comfortable being around snakes, knowing that they are far more scared of us than we are of them…but this was a venomous – and dangerous for our child-and-dog snake. It could not be allowed inside the garden. And it was stuck – there was no safe way for us to “help” remove it.  Jon got the hoe (for a longer reach) and began to whack its head off…which didn’t quite work, but a shovel did the job effectively.

It was a juvenile snake – pretty small, less than two feet. This was only the second rattlesnake we’ve encountered in our yard in over six years. We’ve had lots of kingsnakes and gopher snakes (all non-venomous & actually the kingsnakes EAT rattlesnakes, so I like having them around). And when you remove a snake too far from its territory, it will likely die because it cannot compete with the other snakes in a foreign territory. I feel bad that we had to kill this snake, but it just reminds me that we are visitors in their territory and we need to be vigilant about being outside in the desert, even in our front garden that is somewhat protected.

And I’m getting more chicken wire this week to double-up the ocotillo fence protection.  I’m probably going to be hyper-aware of my surroundings every time I step outside for awhile…

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