Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don't Tread on Me - The Cottonmouth

Americans drive a lot. Every year we build new roads and expand old ones. Wildlife is always in danger and the need for rescue is constant. Where the rubber meets the road, there is often a critter in between.
I make no judgments when a rescue is required. My safety is the number one priority. Getting the animal to safety is number two regardless of the species. There are times when my safety involves more than dodging traffic. The wildlife that is injured, stranded, trapped, etc. usually does not understand your intentions and can make the situation more difficult. Such was the case when a Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) made the proverbial “crossing of the road”.
Turtles are easy. Pick them up by the shell in front of each rear leg, carry them in the direction they were heading and place them far off the road. (Snapping Turtles and Softshell Turtles require a gentle grab by the tail and with arm fully extended away from your body, to bring them to safety).
When it comes to a venomous reptile, the plan changes. As I approach the snake in the road, it coils in defense as Cottonmouths do. It’s not helping. The approaching traffic spots me waving them into the other lane and had I not stood in the road they would have surely run the snake over. A car stops and asks if I need help. I explain I’m trying to shoo the snake off the road. Thoughtfully and with a twang reminiscent of a character from Deliverance, the driver points out that it’s a “ven-mus snake and it’ll bite cha!” He drives around.
The snake heads east, changes its mind and heads west. I carefully move to the opposite lane and direct more traffic around. A driver shakes his head. The snake slides off the pavement and into the grass, safe for now.
Certainly encounters with venomous snakes require caution, but out on the roads there is no question who is the more dangerous species.

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