SNAKE in the Grass

There’s a deadly predator lurking in your yard. A sneaky, bloodthirsty menace who kills for sport, often without cause.

I am, of course, referring to you.

People who love the great outdoors develop a fondness for all its creatures, even the creepy, crawly, biting ones. Except yellow flies. #Die4Eva But many people encounter wildlife only in the little green squares of domesticated bliss surrounding their homes: the lawn.

Within these spaces some are welcome, but not all. Butterflies? The more, the merrier. Birds? Yes, provided they don’t shit on the car, commit suicide flying into windows, try to make a meal of the family lapdog, or nest in the attic. Frogs? Hey, why not? (Just not Pepe.)

If it bites us or destroys our stuff, freaking forget it. Whatever it is, it dies. Spiders, snakes, rats, the dread mosquitoes? Dead. Dead. DEAD. You’d kill ’em twice if you could. Poison, a newspaper, a garden spade, whatever it takes, even your bare hands, right?

Lord knows, there are plenty of reasons to stop bombing your block to holy hell to “control” mosquitoes, but for the moment, let’s focus on vertebrates, namely snakes and rats.

(Full disclosure: I’m gonna keep slapping mosquitoes when they bite me. It’s an innate response as automatic as flushing Saturday night’s toxins. Thanks, liver. Sorry/not sorry.)

Let’s cover slitherin’ first.

I get it. You don’t like snakes. They’re scary, some of ’em are poisonous, and they’re often depicted as the devil himself. They’re also innocent creatures vital to the food chain, the vast majority are not poisonous, and 99.9 percent of the time, you can send them fleeing for their lives with these masterful tactics: speaking loudly, stamping your foot, doing nothing, vaguely tossing a wood chip or tiny stick in their general direction without hitting the poor thing.

You can also walk, or, if you prefer, run away. Hand to god, I’ve never been chased by a snake.

Yes, snakes do sometimes bite people, usually idiots, which should be maybe considered a public service—the Florida man who tried to “kiss” a rattlesnake comes to mind. And some of the poisonous ones should not be allowed to nest in and around one’s home for safety’s sake.

If you encounter a snake in your home or garden, first try to identify it. Buy an Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida—it’ll be handier than you think. Failing that, Google it, or ask a friend; social media does have more uses than wasting your life creating Gifs, hate-reading Ann Coulter and indulging in a human centipede ego feed.

If it’s a garden, rat, corn, black, or other nonvenomous snake, leave it be. If it’s inside the house, purchase a simple box trap—Walmart sells them—and relocate it. If it’s poisonous, you can trap it yourself, or call a humane wildlife removal service, like Critter Control of Jacksonville or First Coast Wildlife Services; for a fee they’ll come and take away the legless stuff of your nightmares.

As to the rats, bats, sparrows, squirrels, moles and more, the feathered and furry things you’re OK with, maybe even fond of, until they build a nest in your box of New Kids on the Block tees, forever staining Joey’s face with animal afterbirth.

Stop Poisoning Them.

Not only is it a horrible way to die, it’s also killing a whole host of things that aren’t responsible for the high crime of ruining your retro-cool ’80s outfit. Here’s what often happens when you use poison: The subject of your reign of death crawls off somewhere to die. Carnivores, such as birds of prey, or creatures that eat carrion, make it into a tasty meal, blithely unaware that they may as well be eating glass.

Not only are you murdering hawks, bald eagles, bobcats, and all the other carnivores unlucky enough to eat that mouse, rat or squirrel, you could also be poisoning people’s pets.

A few months ago, some yahoo in Arlington decided they’d had enough of the raccoons who—the horror!—walked from the woods to the river at night. They weren’t rabid; nobody with the sense to shut their trashcans was waking up to the aftermath of a raccoon food orgy. They just didn’t like them. So they sprinkled poison about.

Soon raccoon corpses were washing up in low-lying yards every time it rained. A fragrant cologne if there ever was one. An aging, beloved dog from the down the street also turned up dead. Seems the yahoo didn’t clearly label the poison “raccoons only.” That, or the dog couldn’t read.

I strongly urge you to stop killing the creatures who just want to live in harmony among your hedges and discarded sporting gear. If you must purge them from the castle grounds, trap them or hire somebody else to do it. Our shared birth mother, Mother Nature, will thank you. And your friends and neighbors might stop calling you a yahoo.