If you asked me before we rescued Snakey, I would have told you I do not like snakes. But, we can surprise ourselves!
This Easter, my thoughts go back to what happened last year. I had hidden lots of eggs outside for the traditional egg hunt that our family does. They are not little kids anymore, but the fun and the tradition still holds. I just have to be more tricky and sneaky about where and how I hide the eggs! Anyway, my youngest daughter was the one to spot the real treasure that day. Since we were making every effort to look under everything and peer into all corners of the yard, she suddenly stopped and stood still when she noticed a rather long snake. At first, I assured her it was just a garden hose…but then, I took another look and she was right – there WAS a black snake.
We all looked and saw that it had gotten entangled in a fabric deer fence that we had installed. Clearly it had been struggling for a while because the netting was tightly wound around its neck, it was completely stuck, and the skin and scales looked very dried out. It was so sad. Immediately we stepped into action. Realizing that it was a harmless black garden snake, my daughter and I picked up the snake and cut the netting as close to the snake as we could. (Yes, I picked up the snake!! It was incredible. I didn’t need to think twice because I couldn’t stand to see it suffering – so you do what you need to do.) We put it into an empty shoebox that we had stuffed with some grass.
Luckily a nearby animal hospital accepted wildlife, and we drove that poor snake over as quick as we could. We had to sign off on a form that told us that by handing the snake over we relinquished any right to know whether the snake lived or died. I tried to stay positive, knowing that we did what we could. But, in the back of my mind, I kind of figured that this meant if they didn’t have the time or means to help they might just put that snake down.
We learned from our neighbor, a wildlife expert, that fabric deer fence/netting can be deadly for snakes. He routinely has had to rescue snakes from this type of fencing. On the other hand, wire fencing is firm and either the snake fits through the opening or it doesn’t. With the fabric netting, it was able to squeeze in and then get all twisted up in it. I made sure to take down all of the fabric fencing I had put up and replace it with chicken wire.
I spent some time searching for images of different snakes, and it appears that Snakey is an Eastern Ratsnake, or sometimes called a Black Rat Snake. The Virginia Herpetological Society had a good description and images of juvenile to adult Eastern Ratsnakes, and the pictures of the larger adults look just about right. Same with the image on this National Wildlife Federation webpage. This snake is completely harmless and will help control the rodent population. As I found out from the Maryland Zoo, “Black rat snakes are non-venomous constrictors that feed mainly on rodents but also on frogs, lizards, birds, and eggs. They are excellent tree climbers and spend much of their time in trees.”
Four weeks later, we get a surprise call. Snakey was completely healed and ready to be released! And they wanted to give US the opportunity to release him where he had been found, so he would be able to go back to his home. We were thrilled beyond words! My sisters and nephew and nieces thought we were nuts, when we called everyone to tell them that we had a snake that we were going to release in our yard. When we picked him up from the nature center (that’s where he was being watched and rehabilitated), they had him ready to go in a pillow case.
It was a very special day for us. Extending a helping hand to any living creature on this earth feels good. And seeing how this sweet this little snake happily slithered out from our hands and returned to his tree was the best ending we could have hoped for.