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Granny kills copperhead on Jackson Run

Published in the New Mat Top Hat July 2008.

I'm still shaking...

On Monday, June 23 I became a grandmother for the first time. It was wonderful news to hear that my son and his wife had a new baby boy, named Vorian Brent Ulrich. He was born in the hospital in Alamosa, Colorado, so I must wait a few weeks before I get to meet him. But it feels fantastic to finally be "Granny Annie."

The next day, Tuesday, June 24, I killed a copperhead snake that was right outside our bedroom patio door. It happened around 6:00 pm. It was one of the most horrible experiences I've ever had. 

We had to go to Parkersburg for my husband's doctor appointment that afternoon. We got home late in the day and he was tired and wanted to go to bed.  He couldn't walk from the car to the house, so I cranked up our ATV, which is parked right next to our car in the garage, and drove him around the house to the back patio door. He sat there for a long while until he could walk inside and go right to bed. Meanwhile, I puttered around inside the house a bit. 

After we got him inside, with the ATV still parked outside the door, we noticed a bunch of pullets standing around on the lawn. Then I saw it! A snake! It was NOT a black snake, it was grayish colored.

My husband said, "It's a copperhead." Sure enough, it was! I had just seen a picture of a copperhead in our wildlife book two days before, when we had company with small children who are interested in nature. The obvious diamond pattern with red was on its back. The snake was just lying there on the grass, about six feet away from the door. 

As if guided by instinct, the pullets left it and moved on, and my husband told me to go get the .22 rifle, so I did. He told me to go outside and shoot the snake. I didn't protest. I had loaded the gun the other day when our coyote had made another reappearance and almost snatched one of the chickens. 

I stepped outside and got within 4 feet of the snake, aimed, and hit it first thing -- blew a hole in its belly. It didn't move. I didn't think I'd hit it, so I fired again and hit it again in the belly. "You killed it," my husband told me.

"Then why is it still moving?" I was beginning to panic now.

Next, my husband told me to get the hoe, so I ran to the garage and brought the hoe. The snake still was moving a little and I freaked out. My husband kept telling me I had killed it, but I didn't believe him. How could it be dead and still moving?

Due to my lifelong aversion to snakes, I couldn't go near it, I was so repulsed. My poor husband, dressed only in a pair of underpants, came outside, grabbed the rifle from me, and shot the snake in the head. It still moved! He said it would do that for about half an hour. Then he muttered something about what the old people used to say when they killed a snake: "It'll be dead by sundown."

I started up the ATV and drove it back to the garage, and I was feeling really creepy, as if there might be a snake popping up out of the grass at me anywhere now.

I got back to the scene and my husband wanted me to use the hoe and scoop the snake up into a box, so we could dispose of it somewhere. I couldn't go near the thing.

Finally, several minutes later, he went out and did it himself. He coiled it around the hoe and dropped it into the wheelbarrow cart I had brought. Then I couldn't go near the cart. I was petrified. It was as though there was a force-field around the snake that I couldn't penetrate.

So we decided we'd leave it there till morning. I knew that then I'd have to deal with it, and I'd have to wheel the dead snake in the cart and dump the dead body into the woods or somewhere.

Ordinarily we wouldn't kill a snake. Despite what people have told us, we've hardly seen any snakes on our property. In a year and a half I've seen the black snake only three times, and she has been no problem -- huge, yes -- but non-threatening and even beneficial in keeping the rodent population down.

But we didn't want the dog to tangle with a copperhead. And what if Jessica, our nature-probing cat, had found it? I'm not so sure she'd be wise enough to leave it alone. It creeps me out big time!

As it turned out, I didn't wait till morning. Together we managed to remove the dead snake to a place where vultures and scavengers could enjoy a nice breakfast.

In other news on Jackson Run, "Dorothy" the hen has hatched three baby chicks, and "Sarah's" nest of eggs should be yielding babies by the time this article goes to press. By some miracle we have not lost any more birds to the wily coyote who keeps sneaking back, despite the blaring radio. But that is all part of the balance of nature and trying to raise poultry on Jackson Run.

Oh mercy, my insides still churn from the horror of the snake encounter. This was the first copperhead we have seen since we moved here... and I hope the last!


POSTSCRIPT: A snake lover contacted me in October 2009 and pointed out that the snake I shot on Jackson Run was not a copperhead, but a northern water snake, a non-venomous species. After examining the photo evidence he provided me, I feel I must apologize for this error. Had we realized the snake was harmless, we would have driven it off into the woods instead of taking its life. At the time, we both believed it was a dangerous copperhead. My sincere apologies to this innocent life form and to all snake lovers who may read this.  (Ann)





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