Friday, January 05, 2007

Endangered [CCR]

Not too long ago I took the family to one of those big fancy science centers that included a small zoo. The zoo featured a large exhibit of reptiles with various lizards, crocodiles, and even fancy frogs. But they were very proud of their snakes. Their pride and joy was a huge rattlesnake. The lady with the science center told us that rattlesnakes were becoming endangered and should be left alone. At this point it was quite obvious to me that lady didn’t grow up in Alabama. I explained that their snake was probably fairly safe on the other side of the glass, but if it were to be on this side that snake would be more endangered than they could ever imagine. She looked shocked.

Now some of you conservation folks probably think poorly of me. But I spent too much time in the North Alabama woods to understand what these critters can and will do if given a chance. I would not lie and say my move would be self defense. You might say it would be damage avoidance on my part. And I would argue that it is purely natural because it is in my nature.

Not all snakes are subject to my self preservation nature. In fact many snakes actually make a fairly good partnership with me. While living in North Carolina I believe we had one of the largest black snakes I have ever seen living in my back yard. North Carolina is infested with copperheads, another snake who would not survive my onslaught . Our friendly co resident made sure none of the copperheads entered the yard. What the black snake did with the copperheads was none of my business, but he earned my respect and enjoyed our hospitality. Our partnership went well until the man cutting my yard called me up while I was in Atlanta explaining he took care of the large black snake in my yard. Needless to say his contract ended immediately due to permanently disabling one of my safety devices.

If you have ever had the chance to wander up Malone Creek in a small boat on a summer night you can hear the plop of another critter subject to my attempted elimination. The cottonmouth snakes are sliding off the tree limbs in anticipation of your approach. Let one plop into the boat with you and you too will understand my approach.

One of my more famous snake memories was not supposed to really involve snakes at all. My Dad and Uncle Doug decided to visit Mr. Yarbrough’s pond to gig some frogs so we can snatch off their legs for a Southern delicacy. I remained in the truck while they wandered through the high grass trying to maneuver with stove pipes wrapped around their legs. Each one carried their gig and a plastic fertilizer bag to hold their catch. After a bit of time they returned with their take and a smile on their face. It was not what I expected. Each of their bags were filled with cottonmouth snakes. I assume the frogs were thankful that Dad and Uncle Doug lost interest in them, and also their source of danger had become the subject of the hunt.

If you meander through the Alabama woods you will be assured that these snakes survive in fairly good numbers. I also know that as long as these city folks running the zoos haven’t experienced one of these critters while cutting wood, fishing, or hunting they will have plenty of fine examples living behind a thick glass. Those snakes are lucky, for they are the few of their kind that survived a face-to-face meeting with me.