And there aren’t any apples although I have pear trees in my garden…

I frequently write about the wildlife that co-habits with me and Fergus up here on the mountain. There are bears, of course, and bobcats, fox, coyotes, hawks, owls, turkey, grouse, whip-poor-wills that drive us nuts in the spring and early summer, and the ubiquitous deer. Wild birds abound, and I feed them year round, which is another reason for up-close bear sightings at my windows and on my patio.

So far this week, I have encountered two snakes: a five-to-six foot black snake that crawled out of his (her?) hiding place in the Boston ivy covering a huge wall that my garage shares with the garden because, apparently, I was so annoying as to be working in the flower beds, and, late last night – a young copperhead.

I’ve done some reading about copperheads today, so I’ve decided the one hanging out on my greenhouse step last night was not full grown, although it was about 18 inches long, if I had to guess. Still had some inches to grow and its girth was still slim, so I’m thinking a young one. I’m using the past tense here because, alas, young Master Copperhead expired after a number of applications of my trusty shovel¹.

Based on my reading today, I’m somewhat reassured that, while it would have been terribly painful and unpleasant to recover from, both Fergus and I would likely have survived a copperhead bite². Not to be taken lightly, immediate medical attention is necessary and severe tissue damage is common. A year ago, my closest neighbor ( a quarter of a mile down the mountain) stepped out his back door one night and onto a copperhead that whacked his leg. He spent a few days in the hospital and, when I saw him, was still having trouble putting weight on that leg. Fergus and I had a close call last night, but we learned an important lesson. We will keep our eyes wide open from now on – no more just waltzing out the door in the dead of night. And I’ll keep the shovel in the greenhouse where I can get to it quickly.

Now, the black snake on the other hand is no danger to us. The same cannot be said for the baby birds that may be nesting in my trees and shrubbery, or the chipmunks who’ve been cleansed from the environs near my house. But, I don’t have a mouse problem so there’s that.

There are just a few good hiding places in this mess

¹ Technically a “drain spade” most often used in digging trenches, but I absolutely favor this over a standard shovel for working in the garden – digging up deep-rooted weeds, dividing plants, and on and on. Also good for dispatching snakes, as it happens. And burying them.

² Copperhead bites account for more snake bites in the US than other venomous snakes, largely because of their superior camouflage and their tendency to freeze when approached, so people and pets step on them unawares. They use very little venom in a defensive bite, thank God, unlike the full dose their prey gets to immobilize them for ingestion.