Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Perils Of Being A Private Trail Pooper In Rattlesnake Country

PFHQ sits smack in the middle of 10 acres of Florida oak and palm hammock, and those 10 acres are just one small piece in a much larger forest owned by other folks.
We'll call them "neighbors" although I hardly ever hear or see any of them.
Point is, PFHQ is no island. 
Lots of wildlife move under, through, and over the patchwork of fences that delineate our little human kingdoms.
Most of that wildlife is welcome here, and those that aren't are not summarily executed...even the dangerous ones.
Over 30 years, I've taken the time to move coral snakes and even a rattler to bigger, safer, wilder places...like our 20 acre pine plantation a few miles from here.
I've taken in less dangerous refugees too and released them here at PFHQ.

You walk a fine line when you try to live and let live with rattlesnakes though. Mostly, I never see them. Yet, I know my 10 acres is ideal habitat for them with a mix of open and forested land, a pond, palmetto patches, and gopher tortoise burrows.
Last year, I found a 5 foot freshly shed diamondback skin draped over saw palmetto fronds ... it was still moist.
Not counting the pygmy rattler I relocated last year, it has been years since I've come across a rattlesnake on the property.
Until today.



He's beautiful.
He's also dead.
Here's why...

We have 2 Labs, Bear and Coquina.
The dogs and I walk our woodsy trails multiple times each and every day. 

I always walk them on two 15 foot retractable leashes because the property is not perfectly fenced and they are big powerful dogs who I would never catch if they gave chase to the deer that frequent PFHQ.


Plus, if they were roaming about during the warm months, unsupervised, they could easily come across a diamondback in the scrub or a moccasin by the pond.
Bear has a particular peculiarity that adds a little more danger to this scenario.


He is the most private pooper I have ever seen. Coquina will drop a load just about anywhere away from the house, but Bear ALWAYS has to go behind a tree, a bush, or most scary, into the palmettos to poop usually with his back to me.

Never had a dog that was such a shy shi... well, you know.
So, he basically goes into the most likely rattlesnake places each time he poops. I use the leash to limit how far into the bush he goes for his constitutional.

I was home sick with a nasty sore throat and cold today, so we took more walks than normal. On our midday walk, Bear stopped to investigate a tiny clump of brush. Coquina carried on down the trail just a bit until the two of them had me straight armed like a cross with Coquina ahead and Bear behind.
I told Coquina to stay and turned to urge Bear to come on.
As I did, He jumped back and the buzz of a diamondback filled the air. Curious, he stepped forward, ears up, as the snake buzzed and struck.
The snake missed, partly because Bear had not regained his original position and partly because I came close to jerking Bear's head off via the leash.
It was WAY too close.
Ahead of me, Coquina heard the commotion and dashed back to Bear's side, so now I had both of them in the danger zone.
Luckily, Bear responded to "LEAVE IT!", (thank you Petsmart, puppy obedience school!)

I checked Bear thoroughly while the snake continued to buzz, and then ran them both back to the house where I checked him over and over again for any signs of a hit.
There was none and he was his usual frisky self at post walk treat time.
About 15 minutes after getting him back to 
the house ... AFTER I was sure he was fine, 
I went back into the woods with my Glock and located the snake. It was about 10 feet from where we had encountered him.
I wasn't in "live and let live" mode ...
Like the human death penalty laws, this wasn't about justice or prevention, it was about vengeance.
Simple angry vengeance.
The rattler had only done what instinctively, (and I would argue innocently) all rattlers do in defense, ... I know that. The rational me knows that.
I just wasn't in a rational mood at the moment.

Tonight, I can lie on the floor in the living room and rub this sleepy face,and more so than usual, I know how special that simple pleasure is.




31 comments:

Ms. Moon said...

I think you did the right thing. If I see a rattler on my walks in the woods, I let it be. I am in his territory. But on my property? That's different.

robin andrea said...

I keep trying to come up with the right words to type here. Such a tough moment in every way. I wrote a post a while back about not missing our interactions with wildlife, now that we have relocated to this rather quiet suburban street. These moments are so challenging. Really, really glad Bear is okay.

Julie Zickefoose said...

I get it, Mister. I've caught and transported probably a couple of dozen copperheads from our place. Little kids and later a puppy argued strongly for removing them. And, even though the general public thinks of me as some kind of Snow White, I've killed three. One, that lay along the foundation of my front raised bed, that alerted me to its position by striking repeatedly at me in the dusk. I heard its jaws popping together. Another, that got into the tools in our garage and struck repeatedly, squirting venom. I couldn't extricate it without risking a bite. Another, that approached Bill as he lay in a hammock and struck upward at him. WTF? Sorry, Buddy. If you're peaceful and just want to be left alone, I'm going to respect that. Come after me or my family and you have a problem.
This one resonates. Thank you.

JZ

Doug Taron said...

I'm suddenly reminded of an earlier Bear/rattlesnake encounter. This one sounds like it was considerably friskier than the one that we saw.

Pablo said...

Tough situation. I've seen a few copperheads in my woods, but never a rattler.

Bonnie Holdeman Dalke said...

Thank you. I have killed two that were too close to home and dogs. I don't have the know-how to relocate them and leave them be if they don't feel like a threat. But I have spent too much time beating myself up over those killings. And now I will stop. By the way, I don't own any kind of gun so these two snakes were dispatched using the blade of a shovel, much easier done when another person helps by holding the snake still with a garden rake.

amarkonmywall said...

I'm glad Bear is fine. It makes sense to me; we have copperheads that live in the woodpiles that we all have here on the mountain. Because I don't have your Cool Hand Luke style (or equipment) I grab the hoe, whack away maniacally , squealing and dancing around like a crazy woman. But I always feel relief when I get a clean strike. And, hey! I love snakes but too close is too close.

Marilyn Kircus said...

I prefer to let snakes be, but we killed a water moccasin in our back yard. I'm not brave enough to try and move poisonous snakes. And they can't share a space with my animals and children. But when hiking, I just throw rocks at them to make them move off the trail.

Miz S said...

Philosophical issues aside, I have a question. Did you get it on the first shot,and the 2nd shot was just to make sure?

R.Powers said...

Doug, that was a close call! Glad you spotted him. He's probably a 6 foot DBACK now.

R.Powers said...

First shot was a mortal midsection wound, just to stop him from leaving. Second shot was a head shot to prevent any suffering.

Island Rider said...

Love Ms S. She always asks what I want to know. If they eat rats, etc., even bunnies, they can stay but don't mess with my dogs!

R.Powers said...

Same here.

R.Powers said...

Its a balancing act for sure. Coppers are a rare bird here in FL. I've never seen one. People here think pretty water moccasins babies are coppers.

R.Powers said...

Bonnie, Me too, the beating up part, but the events of yesterday are a rare event around here.

R.Powers said...

Pablo, we are prime DB habitat. Coppers only in the panhandle.

R.Powers said...

Well, you are kind of Snow Whitey bird whisperer girl. I knew you'd get it.

R.Powers said...

Thanks Robin. I did not enjoy the moment.

R.Powers said...

Thanks Ms.Moon. Similar philosophy.

R.Powers said...

Miz S is a gem.

R.Powers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miz S said...

Good man. P.S. when I saw the title of the post I totally thought you were talking about a PERSON pooping on the trail.

Miz S said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R.Powers said...

Thanks Robin. I did not enjoy the moment.

R.Powers said...

Well, you are kind of Snow Whitey bird whisperer girl. I knew you'd get it.

R.Powers said...

Bonnie, Me too, the beating up part, but the events of yesterday are a rare event around here.

R.Powers said...

Its a balancing act for sure. Coppers are a rare bird here in FL. I've never seen one. People here think pretty water moccasins babies are coppers.

R.Powers said...

Same here.

R.Powers said...

First shot was a mortal midsection wound, just to stop him from leaving. Second shot was a head shot to prevent any suffering.

Laura L. said...

I am a live and let live girl, but I also don't have any poisonous snakes where I live. I have beloved dogs also and they are family. I'd do the same thing.

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