Snake from the grass . . .

IMG_0002THERE’S a snake on the path near the back door. It regards me with little sparkly eyes. Its little tongue flicks in and out, in and out. The snake is heading for the house. I think it can smell my chili con carne simmering on the stove, which is a bit worrying because there’s hardly enough for me and Anne, never mind a snake as well . . .

I rush inside for my camera and shout, almost triumphantly: “There’s a snake on the path.” Anne looks concerned and replies: “Is it a big one?”

This throws me into confusion because the snake is only about 15cm long, and not being an expert on this sort of thing I am not in a position to make an assertive judgement. Plus, I saw a video of an anaconda in a Peruvian river the other day, and this little fellow heading for the back step is not in the same league. In fact, that’s just what he is: a little fellow.

Feeling somewhat deflated, I answer: “No. It’s a little one.”

Anne comes hurrying out and we both stare at the visitor. “Oooh,” she says. “I didn’t know snakes were as little as that.”

It’s funny how words said in innocence can feel like betrayal. Imagine you are a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer returning from benighted forests with a young roe deer over your shoulder and your wife says: “Huh. Is that the best you can do?” That’s how I feel.

“Well, it’s probably a baby snake,” I say.

“I didn’t know baby snakes were that small,” she says.

“Well how big did you think baby snakes were, for Christ’s sake?”

The little baby snake seems determined to head for the kitchen door. I need to divert him onto a new course. I also need to take a picture. But how close will he allow me to get with my camera? If I invade his personal space he might bite my hand – or my bare toes, and then Anne will have to suck out the venom, like in that old joke (Smoke signal say you going to die, Kemosabe).

The little baby snake demonstrates his discomfort by recoiling extremely energetically when confronted by my camera lens. His dexterity is matched by my own as I leap backwards.

At this point Agnes, one of our two cats, wanders round the corner and immediately takes an unhealthy interest in the visitor. Suddenly we have a three-way stand-off. I need to get rid of the snake before the cat pounces and is bitten in the process. And I need to achieve this without getting bitten myself or scratched by the cat.

“Shall I get a spade and chop it in half?” I venture.

Anne is horrified.

“Just kidding.”

I find a plastic fly swatter. It’s one of those silly hand-shaped things on a flimsy handle that’s no use for anything except swatting flies or doing George Formby impersonations when you’ve had a few beers. Admittedly, it would be little match against a Peruvian anaconda but it might just persuade our little baby snake to veer away from the kitchen door.

I slide the fly swatter under the snake and flip him over. Blimey, this really gets him vexed. He twists and coils, and his little head sways from side to side. I’m wondering if snakes go for your throat when cornered, like rats do. I flick him again while shielding my throat with my free arm.

This time I flick him over the wall into long grass. The cat bounds after him, but there’s not much I can do about that. Still, at least the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer within, having defended his home and wife against rampaging serpents, feels a little less aggrieved. Time now for some chili con carne.

IMG_0002 (3)SNAKES ALIVE
SPAIN has thirteen varieties of snake, five of which are poisonous. I can’t say for certain, but our visitor appears to have been a hooded snake, also known as a false smooth snake. They can grow up to 44cm in length and are one of the five venomous types. Ours was only a little baby hooded snake, but I’m glad I didn’t try that trick where you grab them behind the head and hold them up to the camera.

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24 thoughts on “Snake from the grass . . .

  1. Well done for your snake whispering, Alen! I would have been a bit bemused myself, especially if the cat had taken an interest (and she certainly would have done). I bet you did a bit of speedy Googling after that little encounter! Perhaps he was just tempted by your chili. No snakes here thankfully, but we’re getting a few of the big spiders that come inside at this time of year. Aagh, they freak me out!

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    1. Hi Jo. Short of getting my penny whistle and doing a spot of charming, I didn’t really know what to do about it. It was speedy Googling indeed, and I was a bit surprised to learn the little chap was one of the poisonous varieties.
      And hey, there are snakes in Scotland and they are aboot at this time of year. I once saw an adder on the track that runs along the west side of Loch Muick. Watch where you’re putting your feet.
      Cheers, Alen

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  2. I hate snakes…..and Coral snakes are only small, but very poisonous…..don’t know if they have them in Spain though. My parents used to live in Florida and they had them in the back garden there.

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    1. Hi Chrissie. I shall look into Coral snakes. I’ve never had much contact with snakes before so I don’t know whether I like them or not. This one certainly gave me a fright. Can’t understand those people who keep them as pets.
      Cheers, Alen

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  3. The smaller they are the quicker they can shift. (And think of the world’s most poisonous spiders; tiny things.) Maybe you could fettle a selfie-stick with some kind of grabber on the end, and then pick up the snakes from about fifteen feet away. Wouldn’t work with a fifteen foot snake obviously, but if the selfie-stick was telescopic… I’m thinking on my feet here. Or maybe a grabber on the end of a roach pole?

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    1. Hey, that’s a great idea, Chris. My trekking poles are in the van. I could rig up a pair of kitchen tongs on the end. But, like you say, if I come up against a snake that’s longer than a trekking pole plus kitchen tongs then I’m in trouble. BUT, would I need to pick up that snake – or would I just run away? I think you’ve opened a can of snakes here.
      Cheers, Alen

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        1. Ha ha. I’ve read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and I know how to tackle grizzly bears – you don’t go within a hundred miles of them. Having said that, I never thought I’d be tackling a snake with a fly swatter, so it just goes to show that you can’t be prepared for every eventuality.

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  4. I’m going to call that the ‘bicycle tyre snake’ as that’s what it reminds me of! 😉 What a cute little thing that is – but I’d have been a bit concerned if it was so intent on getting into my house admittedly. And I’d have been very concerned for the cat – you’d think it would have more (instinctive) sense wouldn’t you?

    I had to rescue an adder of the road near Linn O’ Dee as it was sunbathing. It wouldn’t move away of it’s own accord so I picked it up on a foot long stick and made sure I had another more brush-like stick in my other hand (it was a pine stick so there were plenty of ‘brushy’ ones) to fend it off if it decided to strike. It didn’t anyway – just hissed at me in annoyance. I felt bad as I threw it down a shady banking – poor thing – in Scotland they need all the heat they can get. Haven’t seen any around there this year – I’m very afraid they’ve all died due to the ‘summer’ we’ve just had 😦
    Carol.

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    1. Blimey, Carol. You’re a braver man than me. I would have needed a five-foot stick to move an adder off the road. And then I’ve have poked it and shoved it rather than pick it up.
      Still, it’s good to know there are thoughtful people about who take the time to save snakes from car tyres – and cats.
      Cheers, Alen

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    1. Just when I was beginning to like snakes, the Kimberley death adder wriggles onto the scene. I suppose the clue is in the name as to whether or not it is dangerous. Not only that, it’s an ugly bugger too.
      If I see one in Spain, Hanna, I shall give it a wide berth.
      Cheers, Alen

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  5. Dear McEff. Tynemouth calling. My humble apologies for putting quill to parchment. However while I will not bother you and your good lady of the sad fate to befall one of my ancestors who indeed failed to recoup his his peseta’s (should be Euros ? Ed) in his opening of Spain’s first colonic irrigation boutique by the country declaring a hose pipe ban. I shall leave his return to the homeland to set up,in Portmouth,a shoulder cleaning service for bucanneers and his introduction of sterio parrots to them caused a doubling of business,and a true founder of the family fortunes. Be that as it may, I deduct a slight sadness as to your account of Spanish paperwork ? However in discovering the account of Hadrian’s problems with Hexham’s Council Planning Dept refusing to accept a wall. They suggested a ditch…NO was his reply as Picts/Scots/Sundry rabble and even CIU members would run down and then up it. Flood it came the reply as as every body knows the Irish sea was higher than the North sea and would cause a fast flowing impassable barrier !No No a thousand etc They could just use a plank! Even though the hygiene following legions of troops could use their stick/ cloth regime (wrong end of the stick etc I will leave there) However at last the good burgers/beugher/buggers(strike out this Ed which true?) Time to halt now.(To follow Hadrians arrival in the final bricks at the wall’s end in a place who had the copyright of the title Wallsend and further battles! Pip pip.

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    1. Peter, I don’t know where to start with my reply. I just wish I’d had a couple of glasses of what you’ve been drinking. Also, I have this mental image filling my head of CIU members running up and down a ditch while attempting not to spill their pints and stopping for a game of darts on the top. I suppose the Picts might well have done the same.
      Anyhow, it’s good to learn there are still stout, levelheaded men in Tynemouth.
      All the best, Alen

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  6. Wow lucky you, I don’t mind snakes and would be really happy to see something like that heading to the kitchen.

    Pedants snake joke – Two guys are starving in the wilds and thinking of eating each other when they spot a snake. They look at it and Bob says to his pal Joe, do you think it’s poisonous? Joe says nope, there are no poisonous snakes in this area. Bob picks it up and immediately gets bitten. Just before he dies Bob says I thought you said it wasn’t poisonous. His mate smiles, it isn’t poisonous you can eat them no problem. They are venomous though and can kill a man in minutes 😉

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    1. Boom boom. And thank you for that, David.
      I had a feeling you’d like our snake. And I sort of knew you wouldn’t mind if you saw one heading for your kitchen. Isn’t it funny how you get to know someone without actually meeting them?
      The little fellow hasn’t been back since, and we haven’t seen anything else in the wildlife sector except a couple of bats. And it was too dark to identify them, and they were flying too fast as well.
      All the best, Alen

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