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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Killing Snakes

     How do you do it? A lot of people like them, but many find them repulsive. Even so, when you see one in the garden, at least around here, they aren't poisonous, so just leaving them alone is the best thing to do. 
     When people do kill snakes it's usually with a garden tool. Trying to catch them, even non-poisonous ones, can be dangerous though because they will bite. A snake will never strike for no reason and when they do it's usually because they were provoked or surprised. Only a few venomous bites occur in the U.S. every year and it's usually when people are attempting to kill or get rid of them. 
     Before you kill the snake make sure it's not venomous! See the article How can you tell if snake is poisonous HERE.  Venomous snakes are scary when they're alive, but they can also be deadly after they are dead because snakes are well known for retaining reflexes after death. Not only snakes, but other cold-blooded vertebrae share this ability and there are actually reports of people being bitten by the severed heads of snakes. 
     In venomous snakes like cobras and rattlesnakes, biting is one of the reflexes that can be activated in the brain even hours after it's dead. The bite reflex is strong in venomous snakes because they bite for a different reason than other animals. Some animals, like tigers, kill their prey by sinking its teeth into its victim and holding on, but snakes usually deliver a single, extremely quick bite and then move away until it dies. Snakes are quick; rattlesnakes have been known to inject venom in less than two-tenths of a second.  You can see just how quick on THIS Youtube video.
     Even if a snake's head has been chopped off, the bite reflex can be triggered hours after it's dead because the nerves have not stopped functioning. Here's another thing to keep in mind.  Some snakes, rattlers in particular, control how much venom they inject, but if the animal is dead, there is no control and the bite will likely contain the maximum amount of venom.  Also, the bodies of snakes have been known to continue rising off the ground as if to strike even after they've been beheaded.
     How can that be?! These movements are fueled by electrically charged particles which remain in the nerve cells of a snake for several hours after it dies. When the nerve of a newly dead snake is stimulated, the channels in the nerve will open up, allowing the particles to pass through and creating an electrical impulse that enables the muscles to bite in a reflexive action. 
     What if a snake gets into your house?   It happened to my neighbor lady. Her dryer is in the basement and the vent to the outside is only a couple inches off the ground. It had a wire screen covering the opening, but when it fell off, a snake crawled in and ended up in the dryer. Quite a shock to the poor old lady when see went to throw in a load of laundry! 
     Before you try to kill a snake inside your home, you should be aware that most snake bites occur when people are trying to kill or capture a snake. Trying to bludgeon it to death or pick it up puts you within striking distance of an animal that will defend itself. Even whacking it with something long, like a rake or a hoe, can be dangerous because snakes are fast and some can strike a pretty fair distance. 
     And, here's a tip from a snake expert. Chances are if you succeeded in killing the snake with the first blow, it wasn't poisonous. Most poisonous snakes are tough and incredibly fast and will dodge the first few strikes of a shovel or hoe. After that, it will be frightened and riled up, making it even more dangerous. 
     If a snake gets in the house the snake expert said the best thing to do is shoo it out with a broom or use a snake trap. Speaking from experience I can tell you that it is impossible to shoo a snake in the direction you want it to go and even a common garter snake is fast!  
     As for the trap advice...by the time you locate a store that carries snake traps and get there to buy one and then return home...well, good luck finding the snake! And, remember, by that time, the thing could be lurking anywhere. Who wants to go to sleep at night knowing they have a snake hiding out somewhere in the house? Forget about trying to poison one! When snakes eat, they catch their food live and eat it which means they won't eat poisoned bait. 
     As for the lady with the snake in her dryer...she asked me to remove it, but being a snake-hater, I wasn't going to touch it! The solution? I told her to go next door and get my other neighbor lady. She finds them in her flowers all the time and just picks them up and throws them in the woods behind the house. 

Snakes aren't the only critters that are dangerous even after they're dead!  Read this article:  6 Terrifying Creatures That Keep Going After They're Dead

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