I admire rattlesnakes. Enough so that I named this blog after them. They’re shy and reclusive, they’re efficient predators, and they’re more than happy to leave you alone if you’ll do the same for them. But I’d never seen one. Not until Saturday afternoon.
I had stepped around the corner of this old motorhome I’m living in and came face to face with about a two foot long diamondback that was making a beeline for it. I had seen a mouse a couple of days before, and figured if there’s one there’s likely more. I made a mental note to get some traps on my next trip to town — I’d rather not have rodents around attracting snakes. I was too late. This snake had apparently gotten wind of the mice and came in to hunt.
I tried to steer it away with a stick, but it got past me and crawled under the camper. I didn’t want it to hang around, and I sure didn’t want it crawling up and inside following the scent of food. I don’t know how likely that would be, but I didn’t want to find out either. That could turn real unpleasant.
With the help of a couple of other campers, we finally got it out from under the house, and I tried to move it back out into the desert hoping it would move on. I got it about twenty feet away and it just coiled up and looked at me. I kept trying to push it farther away but all it would do was turn it’s head a bit to keep watching me. It never rattled, it never struck — it wasn’t at all aggressive. It was like pushing around a rubber snake. Once in awhile it would squirm around the stick and head back toward the camper.
After a few attempts to get it to leave I finally pinned it down to decide what to do about it. I didn’t want to kill it, but I didn’t want it hanging around either. I’ve got a little ten pound dog, and a meeting would have been inevitable. That wouldn’t have turned out well for Abbey. So I killed it.
I felt bad about that, but I wasn’t about to flog myself for it either. I don’t like killing things for no good reason, but sometimes there is a good reason. Sometimes it’s justified. Life and death go hand in hand out here in the desert, as well as anywhere in the wild. Living things kill for food, or in self-defense, or even over territory. I wouldn’t kill a snake out on it’s own turf, but if one tries to move into my space I will if I think I have to.
It was one of those judgement calls — I’m not happy about having to do it, but I’ll do it again if I have to, as much for Abbey’s sake as anything. Hopefully it won’t be an ongoing issue.