Outdoors: God’s Slithering Vermin Snatchers

Steve Gilliland
Special to the Globe

I don’t know what makes some people deathly afraid of snakes and other people not, but I was blessed (or cursed) with the latter; we’ll call it a “healthy respect.”

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want a snake for a pet, to wear around my neck or to curl up on my lap for scratches like our pups, but I’m not afraid of them at all. I have close friends who would make a back-door in a building where there was no back-door, if suddenly faced with a snake.

My brother, whom I have always seen as manly-as-they-come, will turn and walk the other way. I have seen grown men twice my size and tough-as-nails run screaming like little girls at the sight of a snake.

A recent conversation with a friend who found a big bull snake in her basement reminded me of my first encounter with a big Kansas snake.

My first residence in Kansas, years ago, was only one-half mile or less from the Arkansas River, so my place was no stranger to critters. The first summer there, I had a vegetable garden at one end of the yard.

Nearby sat a small chicken coup that was home to a few odd chickens and a duck or two. One duck was sitting on a nest of several eggs, on the floor, at the far end of the chicken house. This particular day as I worked in the garden, I could hear the duck squawking and quacking like crazy from inside the chicken house, sort of like a duck’s version of a frenzied 911 call.

I peered into the little building and found the momma duck pacing back and forth in front of her nest.

“Odd,” I thought, so I stepped up into the building to get a better look, and there coiled up in-and- around her nest was a big bull snake swallowing her eggs.

As I remember, a couple lumps in its throat showed the beast had already ingested a few.

What happened next will probably make many readers think the butter had dripped off my noodles. Bull snakes are not poisonous and eat many vermin around farmsteads, so if you can tolerate them and give them space, we humans will be the benefactors.

Knowing this, I didn’t want to kill or hurt the thing, so with the garden hoe I had in my hand, I scooped the bugger up and chucked it out the door into the yard where I had some maneuvering room. With the snake trying to decide whether to “slither” for its life or whether to turn and take me on, I pinned its head to the ground with the flat blade of the hoe, and carefully grasped the wriggling critter just behind the head.

The snake kept wrapping around my arm and leg, so I finally stood on its tail while I hoisted its head to stretch it out; it was as long as I am tall, well over 6-feet. A friend was there, so with me holding the brutes head out the window with one hand, and the rest of its body inside the car with the other, we drove to the river and released it there. I’m sure it paid me many more visits after that we just never knew about.

Back to my friend’s snake encounter that reminded me of this story. Her clothes dryer is in the basement, and some time back, the dryer quit working properly. Long story short, they found a big bull snake had somehow gotten into the dryer vent and was completely blocking it. It was pulled out and released near a row of round bales up the road.

Now, I’m certainly not advising to release a rattlesnake that is around your home or buildings that might bite someone, but if possible, give bull, rat and garter snakes room and let them do the jobs God equipped them to do, to help rid your property of vermin. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com