I’ve let the yard go back to nature for more than a couple of years and I really like that kind of thing. The trees in the back yard have developed low hanging branches, the grass has gotten up high, there are tiny saplings growing up everywhere, and the leaves have piled up in places leaves are wont to do such things. There are those who have despaired at my lack of landscaping but this is the way I think things ought to be, or I did until Lucas got bit by a Cottonmouth. That’s a game changer.
So I have been here eleven years, Lucas has been here for three, and there has never been a snake bite incident, but it’s not that I think it will happen again, it’s that I have to do everything I can to keep it from happening again. Lucas will not likely survive another bite right now and I sure as hell cannot afford the vet bill for it. The only thing I can really do is start to make the place a little more hostile to wandering snakes and the only way to do that is make the habitat less inviting. All the things I like about the woods have to go now and while there will be those who like a mowed lawn I rather have a yard with nature in it.
Mowing two years of growth with a push mower is an adventure, I tell you. Yet this will open up some space so those winged things that like to eat snakes can see them more clearly, and the snakes will have less cover. The snake that bit Lucas was a small one, no more than two feet long, but the snake felt comfortable enough to get from where he was to the back of the house. I’m not sure which direction he approached but once I got all the grass cut I started at Ground Zero of the snake bite and I worked my way towards the woods.
The scene of the crime is where the porch juts away from the rest of the house and Lucas had the snake cornered there. It is easy to see why the snake where there to begin with because there is a layer of leaves that make for good background for a patterned snake. All of this detritus will go into the mulch pile, and it will be a good thing, too. I rake under the back steps, and some of this stuff is so old it still has the teeth print of dinosaurs on it. I find an old brick, a remnant of the house that was here before and I wonder who lived there. I rake around the Oak tree near the back door, and I lop some of the low hanging branches down. More leaves and more stuff for the mulch pile, and less places for a snake to hide. I discover a small hand rake that I owed years ago, swallowed by the leaves, and now a skeleton. This is a relic from the first home I owned, and I never used the small rake before, and I now I know when I last used it, for I need to rake from under the back steps.
The bottom step and the ground have become close companions and I wonder if the distance between them will change who they are to one another. But there is good mulch stuff under that step and it is a great place for a snake to hide. No more. I used the nearly dead rake to clean out from under the step and the mulch pile has more fodder. I rake the leaves and stuff away from the house under I hit the Florida looking sand that is so prevalent here. Now, instead of a highway for snakes there is a beach with direct sunlight. This is a deathtrap for small snakes. Anything with wings that eats snakes can now see from the fenceline to where the deck begins. There is more than a few vantage points for birds around here and now no cover for those who slither.
This is a repeated pattern for the day. Where I have seen snakes, and I see snakes when nothing else on earth can possibly know they are there, I remove the camouflage and cover. I takeout underbrush and low limbs until there is daylight where there once was scaled creatures. Skinks scurry away from me, the small brown earth type, not the big ones, and I do realize this goes against all I have or haven’t done on over a decade.
Lucas is healing but I strongly doubt he would survive another strike easily. Snakes move away from such activity as I am raising and I plan to do even more. There is more water this year, and if I do not get a grip on the vegetation soon could well be fighting a jungle out there. I haven’t been out back to hack at vines for a while now but I can soon change that. The peace has been broken and while a war has not been declared the issuance of borders has begun. I have no intentions of killing a snake, any species or any size, but I do have an intention of keeping them off the property, or at least keep them in the open. I aim to keep my Loki Mutt alive. What lengths I have to go depends on if the snakes understand what is happening, and I think they will.
In nature, parent animals allow little trespass. The signs that someone is raising their offspring are usually visible and clear. The mound of an alligator is unmistakable. The area where a mother grizzly is near is an area where you will find few other living creatures save those too small to be a threat while being too fast or flight to be dinner. The snakes around here have simple minds. Path ahead; safe not safe? If I keep giving them unsafe paths to my door they will eventually take another away from me and mine. This is what I am doing, and I think I know their minds well enough to do it.
In losing Bert I found sorrow. In the attack on Lucas I now find focus.