Monday, July 13, 2009

Threat Assessment

To set the stage, I live in a house on the side of a mountain. Not a big mountain by any means, but big enough to where any flat spots in my yard are cut back into the mountain, and have a retaining wall holding up what was not cut away. You may also remember that several months ago, I had sort of a snake infestation. It didn't seem that I could walk out of my front door without tripping over a Black Rat Snake, or espying a Copperhead. The copperheads are poisonous, and I kil and dispose of them, while I just try to shoo off any snakes that aren't poisonous. Usually the Black Rate Snake. This weekend, I saw an interesting Red-Bellied Snake. I see them occasionally in the yard, along with Ring-Necked snakes, and Worm snakes. Those three are all small, usually a twelve inches or less, and not even as big around as a number two pencil.

Anyway, I see this snake lying at the foot of the steps in the driveway. It has no real discernible pattern on it, just a dark grey with faint, darker lines running the length of it's body. I notice a slight tan discoloration to either side of its neck, just behind the head. After doing some research, it turns out the the Red-Bellied snake, and the Ring-Necked snaked, will sometimes cross-breed, producing a critter like what is before me. Interesting. Must be the hyphens that let them get along so well :)

Anyway, after not seeing any snaked for a month or two, I was happy that this one was small, and innocuous. Then, last night, as I step out front for a last smoke( ja vu anyone?) I get about halfway out the door when I notice something slithering along the top of the four foot retaining wall, about fourteen feet in front of me.

This is where the threat assessment part comes in. I mention it because it seems so odd to me. I did not identify the snake as a Copperhead, and therefore a threat. I did not identify the snake as poisonous, and therefore a threat. What I did, as I backpedaled into the house, was identify the snake slithering along the wall as "not a black snake". I was already grabbing the Rough Rider, loaded with shot, out of the holster, and heading back towards the front door, when it finally clicked in my head that the pattern I saw in the scales as it slithered along meant that it was in fact a Copperhead, and about twenty-three inches long judging from the distance it was stretched along the wall.

I step back out side, and of course, it's gone. However, I saw where it was going, and it wasn't moving fast, so I thumbed the hammer back, and stepped up within a couple of feet of the retaining wall, just forward of where I last saw the snake. The light from the porch caught the snakes eye as it lifted its head towards me to assess what I was, and I was able to draw a bead on it, and dispatch it quite easily. Still got a case of the willies when disposing of the carcass, as even though the head was so much mush, the body was still responding to touch, and trying to curl around the rake I was using to pick it up.

The thing that got me thinking was about how I assessed the threat in my head. As I mentioned, I did not immediately identify it as a poisonous snake, and therefore a threat. What I did, mentally, was identify it is not a black snake, which I know is benign, and therefore a possible threat to be identified after I had something in hand to kill it with. My brain caught up with itself such that I had identified it before I got back to it, but it was interested that i first determined that it was not immediately benign, and therefore a potential threat, to be identified at gun point.

I don't know if that's something I do normally, or only with snakes, as this was the first time I realized the thought process going on. I'll have to pay more attention to the thought process when engaged in job related activities where threats are of the two-legged variety, and see if I can recall how I assess things. If it follows along the same lines as what happened last night, then I would assume, that I would immediately identify Friendly and Not-Friendly. With the Not-Friendly designation not necessarily being a threat, or an Unfriendly, but needing futher examination to make that determination.

Hope you had a good weekend.


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