Bad karma? What would you do with a rattlesnake hanging out under the tomatoes?

Our house borders the open space of a dry table mountain (mesa) in Golden, Colorado. Last week my wife had quite a shock: bending down to pick some ripe tomatoes she noticed – just barely in time – a rattlesnake coiled up under the tomato bush. We took some pictures, called in the neighbors and their kids so they would learn to recognize one and know to keep their distance, and then shooed it away with a ski pole. The rattle sounded exactly like one of those pop-up lawn sprinklers. Also, the snake turned out to be quite a bit longer than it appeared rolled up, 26 inches as we now know.

Anyway, we thought that encounter should have frightened her more than us and that we’d never see her again. Wrong. Four days later is was me who almost got bitten. I had looked carefully before going near the tomatoes but had seen nothing. But when I turned to the plum tomatoes there it was, 2 feet away, coiled to strike and rattling full throttle. I jumped back instantly, ‘enjoying’ a huge rush of adrenalin, and losing some cherry tomatoes.

It didn’t take me long to decide. We have a five year old girl, a clumsy St. Bernard, the kids across the street are even younger, and this deadly critter seemed undeterred and comfortable under those tomato plants by the brick wall that was radiating back the day’s heat until late at night. I got my camera, took a few last pictures and then hit it with a long shovel. 

Despite its partially severed head the body continued to writhe for another 20 minutes. My daughter was fascinated. I finally sawed the head off (with the shovel), sealed it into an empty can in the trash, and my neighbor moved the body onto a rock where birds of prey could easily spot it. 

Live and let live – sometimes. Still, I felt lousy and shaken.

In hindsight, I probably could have ushered the rattler into a tall garbage bin and let it out on top of the mesa. But it’s amazing how visceral those emotions get, and how they affected me.

Maybe that’s what I’ll do next time. Coincidentally, the authoritative book on rattlesnakes by Laurence M. Klauber “Rattlesnakes: Their Habits, Life Histories, and Influence on Mankind, Abridged edition”  had arrived that same afternoon. I had hoped to find more information on how to handle this slithery situation there but hadn’t checked the mail yet.


4 Responses to Bad karma? What would you do with a rattlesnake hanging out under the tomatoes?

  1. jacqueline says:

    We have a black rat snake that is stealing eggs in our chicken coop and although they aren’t scary like a rattlesnake it is a little disconcerting to see a snake eating eggs in the nest. We have been throwing this 6′ friend out for weeks and there are times I want to just kill him, but as soon as we are able to catch him we will move him down the road. I totally get the scary snake thing though!

  2. Dan says:

    You write: “In hindsight, I probably could have ushered the rattler into a tall garbage bin and let it out on top of the mesa.”

    Once, we had a terrible woodchuck problem. They were ruining our garden. So I started trapping them and releasing them in a swamp near the local lumberyard where I worked. Then my mother had lunch with her friend Joanna, who lived next to that lumberyard — Joanna said, “I have a terrible problem with woodchucks this year,” and my mom said, “Strange, so does my son, he traps them and releases them at the lumberyard.” Guess I just moved my problem and gave it to someone else.

    Plus it turns out that in my state (Massachusetts), it’s illegal to move any kind of wildlife from one location to another.

  3. juuggernaut says:

    Actually, the rattler came from that mesa which is adjacent to the house. Speaking of woodchucks: they incite violent feelings in otherwise peaceful individuals. My wife saw her harvest decimated by one such critter to the point where she loaned a rifle and shot it (across Buzzard’s Bay on Sippewisset Rd). Her landlord then ate the woodchuck (she was vegetarian).

  4. bmepain says:

    Greets! Really amazing. Big ups!

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