Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cabin Life: The Forgiveness of Snakes

The Wounded SnakeI don’t usually think about snakes, but I’ve had a few run-ins in the last couple of days, and I haven’t really had a choice but to think about them.  Now, I’m not one of those people who screams like a little girl when he sees a snake (anymore), and when I do happen to think about them, it’s usually because a garter snake is slithering away out in the driveway or curled up on one of the rocks out in the yard.

The other morning, I stepped out of the front door and was handed a small garter snake.  My friend had picked the ten inch snake up right outside the door.  We each let him run through our hands and then dropped him back into the grass.  Now, I know it’s bad to handle wild animals, but it’s nice to feel the soft motion of the snake on your hands.  It’s also a reminder that these guys aren’t out to do us any harm, and just want to eat the bugs around the garden.

Later that day, I was testing out the weed eater.  The recoil spring had come out of its housing, so after twenty minutes and an extremely cramped hand, I got the thing running and went to test it on some tall grass.  The weed eater worked fine, but as the grass fell to the ground, I noticed another snake slithering away pretty quickly.  He only went a few feet and as the weed eater ground to a halt, I checked the snake.  I was afraid I had hit him with the string and I was right.

There was blood coming from a small cut on his back, and the tip of the tail was bleeding as well.  I felt bad and considered grabbing him and putting a couple band-aids on, but that just didn’t seem right.  I hate to hurt animals, although I’m not opposed to eating venison and wild turkey.  But this snake, which was much larger, almost two feet long, wasn’t going to be dinner.  Luckily, the wounds hardly seemed fatal.   He slid under a board that was on the ground, and stayed there for a few hours.  I would see his head poke out every once in a while as I walked by, and just hoped that he wasn’t hurting too much.

I checked under the board the next morning, and he was gone.  I felt good that he hadn’t just died right there, even though I knew he could be dead ten feet away.  I worked all day and then in the evening walked over to the fire pit.  I thought I saw something on one of the rocks, and upon closer inspection, it was the same snake.  I could see the scabbed-over wounds, and he didn’t look any worse for the wear.  He hung out for a few minutes, and even let me take some pictures.  I was glad he was alive and appeared to be doing well.  And there’s not a doubt in my mind, that even though I hurt this snake, he’ll still stick around to eat the bugs and help me out.  And that is one very clear example of true forgiveness.

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Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.

5 Responses

  1. RIchard says:

    Short but sweet snake story.

  2. Paul says:

    They also love to eat toads and frogs that eat bugs! To see one trying to swallow one is amazing. Big circle I guess? One cabin I have is a snake haven. It sits high on a sunny (when it is out) knoll. The snakes love it. I even had one on the kitchen table when I got up one morning. That was a bit much! Tossed it out the door and it probably slithered back under the camp.

  3. joan streetman says:

    understand there are no poisonous snakes in the adirondacks am I right

    • Paul says:

      I think that is almost accurate. I think there are some Rattle Snakes near Tongue mt. near Lake George? But that is the only small exception. I have seen Milk Snakes in the Adirondacks and they make you think you are looking at a maybe Coral Snake. I think the Milk Snake is one that tries to look like a more deadly variety.

  4. William S. Brown says:

    It is true that there essentially are no venomous snakes in the Adirondacks, with two exceptions: on state lands (Wild Forest Preserve) in the extreme east-central and southeastern edge of the Adirondack Park in the Champlain Valley foothills. In these locations, several restricted populations of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) occur. At one mountainous location, I have been conducting a continuous field study, by marking and recapturing the snakes, for the past 33 years and am still actively doing this research. The objectives are to measure growth rates, reproductive frequency, population size, survival rates, and other ecological variables. The Timber Rattlesnake occurs in over two dozen counties in New York State and is fully protected under NYS law as a threatened species.

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