My Rattlesnake Relocation Experience
The first time a rattlesnake appeared in our fenced area, underneath our back steps, we called our wonderful neighbors.
Riendo came and explained about the process of safe capture and release as he collected the snake, placed it in a plastic container with a secure lid, then drove it down the trail and released it for us.
Over the week-end, I once again heard Sophie bark in that particularly loud and urgent manner. Going outside right away, I looked in the direction of her attention and saw our visitor underneath the fiberglass ladder. It filled the space of three full rungs. This time, now knowing what to do and basically how to do it, we took quick, careful, decisive action.
This rattlesnake was significantly larger than the first, and two things were imminently clear. It could not stay where it was; and I didn’t want to hurt it. I got the two Terriers into the house, praising them for doing such a good job of alerting us; and Billi and I came up with a plan.
I got the large, heavy duty plastic garbage can, and slowly laid it on its side, with the opening facing the snake. Then I got the rake and asked Billi to lean the thick lid against her legs for protection, and slowly lift up the ladder, under which the snake was lying.
Once accessible, as gently as I could, I guided and drew it into the plastic can; then quickly put on the lid and snapped it into place. As I moved the trash can to an upright position, the sound of the rattle was both loud and rapid. It reminded me of my rain-stick, when I turn it upside down and the numerous beans quickly cascade down through the many pegs inside the hollow wood.
According to my National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Southwestern States , “Rattlesnakes are pit vipers with wide triangular heads, narrow necks, and rattles on their tails. Long, hollow fangs fold back against the roof of the mouth when not in use.” Their venom attacks blood vessels, red blood cells and the nerves.
The Diamondback has a heavy body and grows up to six feet in length. I think ours was at least four feet and very fat. They are poisonous and their bite can be fatal.
The Field Guide explains that rattlesnakes coil, lift their head and rattle their tail as a way to “warn intruders to back away.” I knew that our visitor was not at all pleased to be in that enclosed container, and its protests were loud and continuous.
We loaded the trash can into the back of the Jeep, and secured it in an upright position to try and mitigate his wildly bumpy ride down the trail, across the arroyos and ultimately to a suitable new home.
After unloading the plastic can and hiking a short distance from the road, the trash can was once again put on its side, with the lid unlatched. I wanted to give the snake time to get oriented again, with the can horizontal, before I took off the lid.
And I wanted very much for our visitor to calm down enough to stop sounding his rattle and hopefully become less agitated. Finally, a welcome silence arrived, we took off the lid and after a while longer gently tipped up the can so he could make his way toward the light and out of the enclosure.
At first, once back on the ground, he re-coiled, lifted his head and was poised to strike. Rattle and fangs were fully evident and very expressive. But after some time, he tucked in his rattle, began using his forked tongue, which serves as an olfactory organ, to sniff the air and new surroundings. After longer still, he relaxed enough to rest his chin on his bulky body and seemed to agree that there was no threat, and no need to be threatening. I was happy, relieved and grateful.
About this time we were treated to yet another wonderful experience, as two adult Mule Deer and a young fawn bounded out of the arroyo to my left and sailed by and beyond me to my right. I had just enough time to lift my camera and get a couple of shots. In one, the first deer had already dipped below the rise and the second barely entered the frame. A second shot captured the fawn, following with such speed, that in the picture you can see it only has one hoof touching the ground.
I was so delighted with their swift and momentary visitation and it seemed like a gift, for safely relocating our visitor. When I got home I looked at my Medicine Cards book by Jamie Sams and David Carson, to see what the appearance of Deer represents.
What I read made me smile. It says in part, “Deer teaches us to use the power of gentleness to touch the hearts and minds of wounded beings who are trying to keep us from Sacred Mountain…you are being asked to find the gentleness of spirit that heals all wounds.”
Snake medicine is about transmutation. The book says snake medicine “…teaches you on a personal level that you are a universal being.” It goes on to address the power and meaning of this fire medicine on the physical and emotional levels. The book also states, “On the mental plane it becomes intellect, power, charisma, and leadership. When this Snake energy reaches the spiritual plane, it becomes wisdom, understanding, wholeness, and connection to the Great Spirit.”
Whenever a particular animal crosses my path, I like to look at the descriptions in the Medicine Cards book. There is so much to learn, so much natural wonder to embrace, so much beauty in the created order for which to be grateful.
Before living in New Mexico I had no experience being in such close daily proximity to all kinds of wildlife. It has become one of the surprises and profound blessings of being a desert dweller.
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