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Saturday, July 23 2016


Before we begin, you should listen to the Steve Earle song, "Copperhead Road" and get that earworm tune in the back of your head as we proceed with today's post.

You don't need to listen to a whole song about bootleggers, I just figured I'd put the tune in your head as your read because that's what's playing in my head every evening as my eyes follow the beam of the flashlight while I hunt for the little red bastards. Copperheads, not bootleggers. It's a nightly ritual now. We have killed at least 14 copperheads since I started counting at the start of summer.

I know. How horrible of me to kill God's innocent creatures. They're just part of the food chain, doing good on this earth by eating rodents. Without snakes the rodents and bugs would take over. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you have 14 copperheads crawling around your back door and your snake huggin' tendencies will wobble a little too. Hey! I'm a 'live and let live' person, but do not lurk by my doorstep! I have 9 freakin' dogs, 5 cats, and about 30 or so sheep and goats IN THE BARN with me, there is no damned room for snakes in here!

Let me give you just a short excerpt from my summer. Let's slice out this week.


I try to get all the chores done before dark, leaving me time around 9 pm to potty break the house dogs and get them inside before the copperheads roll out of the forest like zombies lumbering across the yard. On this night, I had the dogs inside and was doing a final roll call for the 3 kittens who still come inside at night. The two adult cats are on their own. One kitten comes inside, but another lingers outside the kitchen door near the picnic tables with one of the adult cats. The adult cat insists on my attention. Noting her empty food bowl on the ground, I stride in that direction. Gray kitten starts to come to the door but turns back and looks toward the picnic table. This should have been a clue.

I chose to ignore said clue and continue toward the empty food bowl. Right into a copperhead.

Apparently he saw me before I saw him and he was beating a hasty retreat so by the time I got the gun out that rascal was at least 20 feet away. Nevertheless, I made sure my cats were clear and started shooting.

Now the funny thing about shooting snakes is that they are easy to hit when they're sitting still, but even a .410 shotgun shell has a hard time hitting a fleeing snake doing a serpentine at that distance. My first shot missed. I was running to gain ground for a better shot when I saw the second copperhead. Yes, the second copperhead.

Funny thing though, I didn't see the cats any more.

So I shot at the second snake who was racing in the opposite direction of the first snake at warp speed. I'm still not sure where the cats beamed to but they were G-O-N-E, gone. I was then left to shoot at two fleeing suspects going two different directions in hopes of at least slowing them down enough that I could get closer.  Until - click.

Nothing. I'd shot all my .410 shells. The gun was empty. It may as well have been a paperweight. So there I was standing in the dark with an empty gun, a waning flashlight, two scared copperheads, two missing cats, and an empty catfood bowl.  Fortunately Other Half was in the barn and the sound of gunfire alerted him that perhaps there might be a problem on the north side of the house. I screamed at him to bring me another gun. Now that, Friends and Neighbors, is something he can do. Screw gun control folks, when you have 14 effin' copperheads you want guns handy where you can grab them at a moment's notice. So he trotted out with my trusty Henry lever action .22 rifle. If you can only have one gun, this is it.

Other Half and I are a pretty good snake hunting team and we soon dispatched Copperheads #10 & #11. As I've said before. Other couples have bonding experiences over Date Night. Around our house we have Snake Night.

Yes, the one on the left is a very large copperhead.

That was Wednesday night. Thursday night we were returning home late. Most of the chores had already been done  before we left, so the only thing I had to do was close the door on the chicken coop and potty break the dogs before bed. We rolled into the yard. Other Half cut the truck engine off and I opened the door and stepped onto the running board to scan the yard with a flashlight.

He ridiculed me for my caution. Being the person holding the gun AND the flashlight, I had all the cards, so I just ignored him. The beam of my light found a copperhead not 12 feet away. After a few cuss words, I shouted at him,

"I WANNA HEAR THE WORDS! NOW! I wanna hear the words!"

"Okay, you were right."

Music to the ears of any woman.

So I shot Copperhead #12 and continued my slow progress to the chicken coop. At the gate of the chicken yard I found another copperhead. Other Half shot Copperhead #13.

We did then did another sweep to clear the yard before we gave the dogs a potty break.

Little known fact: 3 Livestock Guardian Dogs and 1 Border Collie can squeeze themselves together into a small room and not make a sound. Just sayin'.

Fast forward to last night:

Other Half was gone and so I was left to batten down the hatches for nightfall by myself. This practically guarantees a close encounter with a reptile. I got all my chores done and was making my last trip into the barn before I went inside for the night when I glanced at the water spigot, expecting to see my giant toad, Jabba the Hutt, but saw a copperhead instead.

I threw out an F bomb. He ran behind a trash can. I ran for a shovel. He ran along the base of the barn. Like a bull in a china shop, I knocked tools over while madly grabbing with my snake catcher pole. He made it underneath a planter where we both stopped to catch our breath. The only thing more creepy than the copperhead you can see is the copperhead you cannot see, so I climbed on top of the log splitter to both give me the advantage of height, and because I'm a weenie and don't like an unseen copperhead around my ankles. I then began to dismantle the planter in my quest for blood. At this point I began to question my sanity. Who does this shit alone in the dark? I was trying to juggle a flashlight, a gun, a shovel, and a snake catcher pole. I definitely needed the other half of my snake catching team.

Those headlights coming down the driveway were a welcome sight. I think Other Half was just happy that I had not shot up the side of the barn in my solo hunt for the copperhead.  Yes, it would have been easier but there are holes in the other side of the barn already where Other Half shot it up. Sometimes we get lost in the moment.

So Copperhead #14 joined the ranks of his brothers, flung on the other side of the fence for the raccoons.

We have killed more copperheads this summer already than we killed all of last year. This has been a bad year for copperheads. I blame the unusually wet spring, and two mean-ass Border Collies.

Border Collies???

Yes... Border Collies. In particular, these murderous bastards.

I've been told that armadillos eat copperheads. While I'm sure that's not the bulk of their diet, ANYTHING that eats snakes is welcome around here, so I was happy when armadillos moved underneath the cabin. We had a few close encounters where we had to rescue armadillos from Border Collies

but overall it was working. We saw the occasional copperhead but mostly we saw where the armadillos had tilled up the yard at night. It was a trade I could live with.

All was well until the Border Collies and Briar killed the armadillos. Yes, two in one night. I was livid. And guess what?

The close encounters with copperheads began a steady climb.

April 27: copperhead by barn door
May 7: copperhead in sheep pen
June 7: copperhead by kitchen door
June 12: copperhead on road
June 24: copperhead by back gate

June 27: Trace and Cowboy kill 2 armadillos

June 29: copperhead by chicken pen
July 2: copperhead by bedroom window
July 5: copperhead inside barn aisle !!! WTF!!!
July 6: copperhead by bedroow window
July 20: 2 copperheads outside kitchen door
July 21: 2 copperheads outside chicken pen
July 22: copperhead by bedroom window

Do I have absolute proof the death of two armadillos is directly related to our spike in copperhead sightings? No, I don't.Will I allow anyone to ever shoot an armadillo out here? No, I won't. From now on those little buggers get safe passage wherever they want to go. Godspeed, Little Armored Buddy.

And the copperheads?

Well I'm hoping that we thin out the bold ones, leaving only the shy ones that don't come up to the barn alive to reproduce. Hopefully over the years we'll end up with a population of copperheads that stay in the forest. I don't want to eradicate all of them. That would leave the niche open for rattlesnakes and trust me, I'd rather have the copperheads. They aren't as quick to bite. If they were, the dogs and livestock would already have been bitten. Because of that I'm not actively hunting copperheads down in the forest, but if I happen see one, especially around my house, I'm like a chicken chasing a bug, except that this chick carries a gun - and a shovel.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:19 am   |  Permalink   |  7 Comments  |  Email
I got lost in the moment once and emptied a 22 rifle through a screen door to kill a cottonmouth. This is my grandkids favorite "My grandma is so crazy" ...story.
Posted by Michele on 07/23/2016 - 02:31 PM
YIKES!!!! Do you think the snake training had an effect on your dogs behavior at this point? I never knew an armadillo could eat a snake, but it makes sense. Dinosaur versus dinosaur. Is your chicken coop in the barn? Have you seen Jabba since?
Posted by Andrea on 07/23/2016 - 05:54 PM
Whew!rather you than me. As I have said before we may have some of the deadliest snakes on the planet In all my years of country/bush living I have only seen 4. Here if the ground vibrates they are gone. So I always walk with a heavy step...Having said that I do know of a couple of lGD killed by snakes in northern Aust.
Posted by Liz (Vic Aust.) on 07/23/2016 - 06:03 PM
Have you tried the minnow-funnel-trap trick yet? Or the snake trap glue-boxes? One of those along the base of the building where they run might do the trick. Glue traps need the glue refreshed or replaced. Minnow traps need a new egg-for-bait now and then. I would post a link but then the post may end up filtered for spam. Both types of traps show up on page 1 of a web search for snake traps. Both have worked for me relocating copperheads from a house basement I couldn't exclude them from.
Posted by Trapping Suggestions on 07/26/2016 - 11:23 AM
I've seen that minnow trap and want to try it. Now that I have chickens I expect to see them in the chicken coop. :(
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 07/26/2016 - 11:51 AM
How do you get the snake out of the minnow trap safely? I've heard of drowning them. (which I had to do) I'm more inclined to shoot them, but I guess that would mess up my trap.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 07/26/2016 - 12:05 PM
We opened the trap with a long pole pushing the clip open and snakey shot out heading for the woods. For you, first shoot it while it's still in the trap. Then open the trap, shake out dead snake, and patch any new holes the bullets made in the wire? If you make the top part of the trap 1/2" hardware cloth I think you could shoot through the gaps? Then patch hole in the bottom. If you go 1/2" hardware cloth have 1/4" or screen overlay or wood boards or some other means to keep your critters from getting bitten through it when they come to sniff. Put a good handle on it so snakey can not bite you when you move it.
Posted by TrappingSuggestions on 08/01/2016 - 05:55 PM

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