Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Monday, May 23, 2011

...And other duties as assigned.

(Minor gore warning: a dead snake is pictured in this post.)

Another snake call.

I was taking a fraud report at the PD when I was notified of an Animal Complaint. I clarified that that it was a snake in the back yard. Big deal. Probably a rat snake or something. I finished taking my report.

My partner came in. I briefed him on the day's events, and mentioned that we had a snake call holding. He handed me the catch pole, and we drove to the house. The call was now half an hour old, so I didn't expect to find anything.

We were ushered through the house by the residents, who mentioned that their dog had been barking at a snake on the back porch. They sensibly brought the dog in, and called us. When we looked, the snake was gone from the back porch. We checked under and around shrubs, bushes, barbecues, a lawn mower, and pretty much everything in the back yard. The yard was surprisingly big, considering the suburban housing development that it was in; call it a third of an acre for the back yard alone. There was tall thick brush growing along the fence line, which I walked through, poking with my four-foot snake pole. The residents were in the back yard, with my partner with them, and the dog came out with them.

"Uh, Matt! The dog seems to be alerting on this lawn mower!" my partner told me. Unpossible. I had rolled it back and forth about a foot, and nothing had come out. I was sure that there was nothing under it. But it sometimes pays to check again. The mower was pushed up under some brush, almost to the chain link fence that separated their yard from the neighbors' back yard, in which another dog was very excitedly barking.

I pulled the mower back, and found a coiled cottonmouth water moccasin. He let me see his white mouth, while I tried to grab behind the head with the catch pole. Problem: The catch pole was about four feet long. The snake was a bit longer. The snake struck, turned, and fled through the bracken toward the fence, with the now very excited dog dog behind it. Just before the head probably got to the fence, I made a blind grab at the snake, and caught it on the tail. I caught it.

Note the orange paint on the pole. Through the magic of foreshortening, it really doesn't look like it, but trust me when I say that the snake was able to reach that painted portion. This view nicely shows the pits behind the eyes. Click to embiggen.

The snake was unhappy at these events, as I pulled it out of the brush line. Hissing and striking, it made clear that it was impressively strong (it could strike up the length of the pole straight at my hand, with only the last few inches of tail being held), and that it was very urgent in its desire to bite me. The head stopped just a few inches from where my hand held the pistol grip of the catch pole.

Now what? No garden utensils around. I pulled my ASP expandable baton, but didn't feel like I had a reliable method of killing the snake without risking my precious skin being pierced by fangs, as the baton only extended to 26".

My partner went to get his 870 and some bird shot from his car.

So I took a couple of pictures.

When he got back, we reenacted a scene from Cool Hand Luke, and only THEN did I find out that they had a sharp shooter shovel. I buried the head, and put the snake body in a grocery bag.*

That hole in the turf on the right side of the picture shows where the load of 7.5 shot from a Winchester Super Speed dove load went into the grass that my partner was using as a backstop as he fired at a downward angle. He did a good job; just a bit of skin holds the head on.

I tell you, no cuppa coffee ever got my nerves strumming as tightly as having that snake repeatedly strike at me did.
*Note: I don't hate snakes. I regularly move them to safer places. But there wasn't a way to do that here, and there were dogs all around. Dogs get curious and sniff at snakes, and get bitten near the airway, causing swelling that kills them. We have no shortage of cottonmouths in Texas. If I could have moved it safely, I would have.

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At Monday, May 23, 2011 4:14:00 PM, Anonymous LabRat said...

This trick won't work on other species, but...

Next time you have to cope with a big cottonmouth, if you grab it by the tail like that, pull it ALL the way up and FAST. They can climb when they're young and small, but their hearts aren't very strong; once they get big, they can no longer climb well because they can't get blood to their heads efficiently. A large cottonmouth dangling by its tail or head should fall into a dead faint.

A herpetologist of my acquaintance, who was admittedly a bit touched, used this to haul cottonmouths around like old rope... not something I would do, but it was, like you, part of her job.

At Monday, May 23, 2011 6:56:00 PM, Blogger Robert said...

Jeez. Thanks for that. Now I won't get to sleep for a LONG time. grumble mumble Glad you came out OK. Wearing Kevlar gloves?

WV pantsur as in Mah pantsur soiled, I gotta change.

At Tuesday, May 24, 2011 3:41:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

I saw some evidence of that with this one. Those pics were taken after a couple of minutes of him climbing up to strike at me. He got very tired, and then just hung down, but would occasionally strike laterally, toward my leg.

One of the most immediately noticable features of the cottonmouth water moccasin is its girth, relative to length. I think that body weight does him a disservice when he's trying to climb up himself repeatedly.

At Tuesday, May 24, 2011 3:47:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Never have found a pair that would fit.

I have, um, big hands.

At Tuesday, May 24, 2011 7:13:00 PM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Meh... better you than me. I'd have been dragging out the duty piece and having at him with that...

At Monday, May 30, 2011 10:29:00 PM, Blogger J.R.Shirley said...

In general, I'd let snakes live, but a cottonmouth?

Kill 'em all. Glad you're okay.

At Tuesday, August 09, 2011 8:08:00 PM, Anonymous Ben said...

I somehow stumbled across your blog and felt the need to leave a comment. The snake in your pictures are clearly that of a southern water snake (possibly a banded water snake). If you notice in the pictures the snake is flattening his head?.....Well this is a very common behavior of the typical water snake. Also the "Pits" you point out as being located behind the eyes....well on an actual cotton mouth, they are located near the front of the face on the upper lip down and to the outside of the nostrils. Also, the pictures show part of the under belly of the snake post you can see, it is red/orange in color. This again is identifier of the non-venomous water snake. In no way am I trying to be a jerk....just simply trying to educate you............With that being said, Thank you for what you do...and be safe out there.

At Wednesday, August 10, 2011 2:22:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Belly was yellow. Not red.
Pits were in front of the eyes. Look again.
Musk was very strong.
Sorry, friend.


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