No, not in our house, though we have had snakes in our house. The only way we knew we had a snake was by the shed skin it left behind. The other day Honey found a snakeskin through the bottom holes of stacked flower pots in the greenhouse.
“Want to be a hero?” Snickers called out. “The neighbor girl says there’s a snake in her house and would we get it out?”
It’s easy to answer the call to be a hero in a case like this because I knew nothing really heroic would be required, if in fact we could even find it. From the girl’s description, it was a large black rat snake. She heard it “rustling” and then saw it stick its head out of a stairwell cubbyhole.
I had been replacing bad boards on Shark’s deck when my son-in-law called me to the quest. Their boys Lamppost Head and The 747 were there, and they instantly took off on foot. Snickers’ granddad happened to be present, too. We three men drove the short distance down the street to the snake house.
“I know it was a snake. It stuck its head out and I saw it flick its pink tongue,” the teenager told us, wanting to assure us she wasn’t imaging things.
I had work gloves in my truck. (I have everything in my truck, but that’s another story.) I’m not afraid of a black snake, but I didn’t particularly want to be bitten, either, and didn’t know how friendly this snake would be. I told the boys they could get gloves, too, if they wanted, and they did.
Whoever built this house didn’t like to waste space. Two cubbyholes with cabinet doors, one above and one below, had been built into the ceiling wall above the basement stairs, facing you as you descend. The girl said they had a stepladder in the garage, and sure enough, it was just the right height to set on a step and lean into the wall below either cubbyhole.
I climbed the ladder and opened the doors on the top cubbyhole, where she said she saw the snake. The space was sparsely filled with Christmas boxes and other clutter, including a mouse nest in one corner, which would help explain the snake’s presence. I handed junk back to Snickers to clear the space.
We engaged in some pointless discussion about where the snake might have gone, then gave up.
As I went to put the ladder away, one of the boys yelled for me to come back. “She hears it rustling again!”
The girl must have hearing like a bat. “I can hear it in the other cubbyhole now,” she said.
Back on the ladder, I opened the cabinet doors. Snickers handed me a flashlight, and there was the snake, an arm’s length away, curling itself around some wooden object.
I reached in and grasped the snake below the head. It resisted only a little, curling around my hand and arm as I gently brought it out. It never hissed or offered to bite. Black snakes are constrictors, and fairly thick in the body. I was surprised by how muscular it was.
“Wow, it’s strong,” I said. “It’s a really nice snake.”
The only poisonous snake in our region, to my knowledge, is the copperhead, which is a smallish pit viper and hardly deadly to humans. I’ve seen copperheads only two or three times in my lifetime. The guidebooks tell us we should have timber rattlesnakes here, and doubtless do have up in the mountains, but I’ve never seen or heard of one around here. Copperheads and timber rattlers are easily identifiable by their large triangular heads.
All snakes are beneficial in their natural habitat, especially because most eat rodents and other pests. The numerous little garter snakes I see around my garden eat a lot of insects.
The 747 and Lamppost Head helped me carry Mr. Snake outside. They took him to the woods and let him go. We didn’t attempt to measure him, but he appeared to be four or four and a half feet long. He was still shedding some skin, and that may help account for his docility. Snakes may not see well when shedding. His new skin was a handsome glossy black with some light markings, and lighter under his chin.
“Why didn’t you bring him to our barn?” Honey asked when I told her the story.