The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Life is an exciting business.”
Helen Keller

Snake Hunting

Warning: Don’t read this post if you don’t like snakes. You won’t like them any better after you read this.

Snake Hunting is an interesting hobby. As a kid I used to catch snakes for fun. Usually they were garter, gopher or king snakes. And I caught them up with my friends and cousins at Lake Tahoe or near our home in Tarzana which was somewhat rural at the time. We kept them a couple of hours or days at most and then let them go as none of them would eat in captivity.

Once my cousin Stephen and I were riding our bikes at his house and we thought we saw a garden hose moving across the width of the driveway. We realized it was a gopher snake and was at least eight feet long. We raced up and grabbed it with all four hands but it outsmarted us. The snake wrapped itself up tightly in the very dense bushes next to the driveway and was loudly hissing at us. That scared us as we kept looking back at its tail to make sure there were no rattles. Gopher snakes and rattlers can look a lot alike. As a matter of fact sometimes a gopher snake will hit its tail against leaves to imitate the sound of a rattle snake in hopes of scaring away predators. The hissing worked pretty well on us. Every time we gave an inch it would get further into the bushes and we realized we would never get it out without hacking up the bushes so we let him go. That was the longest snake I’ve ever seen outside a zoo.

As a Boy Scout I was running down a trail in the Angeles Forest and noticed that my next step was going to land on a rattlesnake sunning itself in the middle of the trail. Mid-stride I kept my front foot stretched out as far as I could and somehow my momentum flew me over the snake. I just kept running and never looked back.

Over the years I would see a rattlesnake, sometimes on horseback and would quickly move away from it. When Liz and I were engaged to be married, we participated in Engaged Encounter through our church at a retreat center way up in the hills of Santa Barbara. On a break we walked down the long and remote driveway. On the way back up Liz was a few steps in front of me. I suddenly yelled, “Stop, back up!” Thankfully she did and the five-foot-long rattle snake directly in her path and just the color of asphalt made the rest of his way across the road.

When we move to our current home seventeen years ago our relationship with snakes changed quite a lot. Our property backs up to what is known around here as the Ahmanson Ranch 15,000 acres of open space which is now a state park.

We get lots of unusual visitors, racoons, skunks, possums, deer and even a mountain lion, though that was long ago. Yesterday our twenty-two year old son was up early and saw six coyotes standing together on the hillside behind our house. He hopped the fence and they dispersed. But not so with rattlesnakes, they tend to work their way into our yard and hide under piles of rocks are in the bushes because there are lots of little critters that get their attention.

A couple weeks ago our gardener Jared came in to my office which is in our guesthouse and said he’d caught a pretty big rattlesnake. We have a snake grabber that we bought online for just such a purpose. You might think we just kill the rattlesnakes but I don’t want to do that.

Jared had already put him into the large trashcan. Jared used the snake grabber to lift him up so we could take a good look at him and determine if he was the same one we caught two weeks ago. After close examination, we decided he wasn’t as the pattern and the rattles were slightly different.

My assistants Eileen and Caleb came out to have a closer look and I snapped the photo. I’d like to say that Eileen was standing as close as it looks she’s really about three or four feet back from the snake. Eileen is quite an adventurer herself having just come back from vacation in the Dominican Republic, the day after the hurricane came by.

So what do we do with all these snakes? If you figure three a year, and it’s more than that, we’ve caught over fifty rattle snakes over the last seventeen years.

We put them in a small metal trashcan with a tight lid. That’s can be a bit tricky as sometimes they don’t want to stay in. But once we get the lid on they quiet down. I then seatbelt the trashcan into the backseat of my SUV. Safety first you know!

And we relocate them to what we call Rattle Snake Alley, which is really one of several open spaces miles away. Once there I tip the can on its side and kick off the lid and away they go. I’m pretty sure the snakes like that and so do we. They can’t get back to our house and they’re free to live out their life doing whatever snakes do somewhere else.

So, just another day in our backyard. For a video of a previous relocation click below.



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