12 minutes ago
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Now, I'm not generally anti-snake. Snakes perform a good job in keeping rodents and bugs under control, and I'm usually content to live and let live. However, this past weekend, as I was stepping out onto the porch for an evening smoke, what do I see but a young copperhead probably less than six feet from my daughter's playset. My first thought was something along the lines of.."hunh, that looks like a copperhead.." then it was something like.."YIKES!!! that poisonous snake is near my daughter's playset!!" finally it was "OH [censor]!! I don't have anything handy to kill it with, and there it goes into the bushes!" Me being in my bare feet and it being very dark outside the dim perimeter of the porch light, I decided not to go poking around after it.
I mean, surely it will move on...right? Before I let my daughter outside the next day, I'm out there poking and prodding with a long stick, trying to make sure the snake hasn't holed up in one of the bushes. It appears to have moved on, so I let me daughter play outside, though trying to keep a closer eye on her than usual, just in case. I also notice, that as I go about my day, my eyes are continuously drawn to the base of the Lenten Rose (sp? it's my wife's plant thingie) because that's where I saw it last, so that's where I expect to see it magically appear again. Foolish right?
So about 10:45 PM I'm stepping out on the porch for a last smoke of the evening, and thinking to myself about this snake. I'm heading out the door and thinking about how it's human nature to continuously look in the last spot we saw something, even though logic would seem to dictate we won't see it there again in the exact same spot because it a wild creature than is always moving and..."SON OF A [censor]!! IT'S BACK!!!"
Not just near the playset, not just near the Lenten Rose, but in the exact dadblamed spot I saw it the night before, within an inch or two. It is once again dark as pitch, and I'm basically barefoot, however, a bit better prepared. I dart back inside, grab my little Stevens .22LR rifle, a handful of CCI .22LR shot shells, and a flashlight. I step right back outside, and the little sucker is gone again. Well, no sweat, there's a concrete retaining wall on the other side of the bush, and my driveway to the left, and the right side narrows down between the wall and the porch, almost like a funnel.
I load up a shot shell, put the safety on, light a smoke, and proceed to pan the flashlight back and forth along the plants at the base of the retaining wall. After about five minutes or so, I am rewarded as the light plays across a bit of tan that just too light to be part of the leaf litter/mulch at the base of the plants. I move forward, and the snake moves, it slithers behind a Tea Olive bush, and I thumb the safety off. I've got a bead lined up, just as it's head comes out from behind the trunk, and one exercise in ballistics later, the snake is no more.
I felt bad.
Seriously, here I was, feeling bad about killing this snake that was just minding it's own business, looking for some dinner, when I come along and splatter it with rat shot. I had to do it, it was to big of a risk having a poisonous snake in my 2 year olds play area, and while I felt good about keeping my daughters safe, I certainly didn't feel good about killing the snake.
I gave it some thought, and decided that it could only be that there was no aggression on the snake's part. I hunt and fish, and have no problems then, but I don't kill anything when I'm hunting or fishing, that isn't going to make it into my belly at some point(the odd mosquito or bug excepted of course). However, I killed this snake, and I surely didn't aim to eat it. I've shot aggressive animals before, and didn't feel bad about it, of course, then, I was protecting myself and others against a definite and imminent threat.
The copperhead was only a potential threat, and I think that's why I felt bad about it. I had been within ten feet of it the night before, and there was no aggression on it's part. It was probably just hunting up a toad to eat, as we have those in abundance in the yard. But I couldn't run the risk of my 2 year old seeing it, and going to play with it/pick it up/whatever, and getting bitten by it, potentially fatally.
I'm certainly happy that my girls are safe from the potential threat of a venomous snake, but i take no pride nor joy in killing that snake, and to be honest, still feel a little bad about it....
BTW - Wiki has a fairly decent article on Copperheads and there variations located here [http://en.wikipedia.org/?title=American_copperhead]
Hmm, guess I need to learn to do HTML linkie tag thingies.....