November 1, 2007

A senseless murder and another rescue

Chloe and snake

Right after I posted yesterday's article saying, "Today was another first for me," I had yet another first.

I killed a snake.

Actually, Chloe and I working together killed a snake. I'm not proud of it and looking at it today in the light, I doubted that it was venomous. I was scared to death last night, though. I was afraid that Chloe was going to be poisoned or that the snake might hurt the baby chicks, so I did it.

ChloeHere is a blow-by-blow of what happened: Chloe was bark, bark, barking all evening making me very nervous. Finally, she started making a different bark/guttural growl/"I've got you now" sort of sound. I looked out the front door and saw that she had a small snake cornered. I ran to get the camera thinking I would get a video of her with a garden snake and then bring her inside so the snake could slither off somewhere.

As I went through the front door with the camera, I saw that the snake was no longer there on the sidewalk. I walked down the two steps and just as I stepped onto the sidewalk....

the snake came flying through the air from above my head!!

snakeIt missed landing on my head by a mere 2 inches and fell at my feet!! Well, you can imagine the screaming, barking, and heart-pounding that was going on at that point.

(I still don't know how that happened, but I think that Chloe may have captured the snake in the bushes and flung it in the air.)

I SCREAMED some more as I jumped back while Chloe began attacking it. I was watching and videoing (always the blogger even when suffering from complete terror), mesmerized for a minute or two, when I noticed that it had a wedge-shaped head much larger than the width of its triangular-shaped body − or at least it appeared that way last night. It was hissing and lunging at Chloe as she nipped at it's body. In the dim light, I thought I saw blood in Chloe's mouth. I was scared to death that it was venomous and that it would be a battle to the death for both of them.

snakeI ran inside and down to the garage to get the machete, as all good Hondurans do when they find a snake. I couldn't find it anywhere so I grabbed this square-edged shovel, ran back outside, and crushed its neck a few times until it quit moving. Chloe kept wanting to bite it even though it wasn't moving. Then Chloe laid down on the front step and started whining/growling, panting heavily, and drooling − I was sure she had been poisoned.

In case you are wondering, no, El Jefe was not at home so it was up to Pioneer Gringa to handle the situation and protect the livestock.

We watched it awhile to make sure it was dead and then I scooped it up into the shovel. I checked Chloe's mouth and face and didn't see any blood or signs of a bite.

snakeAs I was taking a closer look at the snake under the light, it came back to life, raised its head up, opened its mouth very wide, and hsssssssd! Another heart-stopping, paralyzing moment. I think if it came at me, I wouldn't have been able to move.

ChloeChloe went off sniffing the ground, apparently smelling the snake trail or, heaven forbid, more snakes.

If you been reading this blog for a time, you know that we have had a lot of different snakes around and that I've done my best to try to save them from the fate of the machete. I don't like snakes but I do understand their importance to the environment.

Today, I really feel badly about killing it. Last night, I was so terrified. It was dark, I couldn't get a good look at it, and I sure didn't have time to research it on the internet. As I was trying to decide what to do, all I could think of were the stories I've been told about dogs dying in horrible agony from snakes bites. Maybe it is just too much coffee, but I'm still a little shaky today.

snakeI spent more hours today than you can imagine trying to identify this snake and I think it may be Stenorrhina degenhardtii, common name Degenhardt's scorpion-eater. Scorpion eater sounds like a very good thing to have around, but if it is this snake, it is venomous after all.

The Complete Guide to Snakes in Honduras (in Spanish) states that it can reach 70 cm. (28 inches). This one was about 60 cm. (24 inches).

Turdus grayi, La Ceiba, HondurasJust to ease my conscience a little and hopefully assure you that generally I'm not a callous murderer of wildlife, here are some photos of the latest bird that I saved a couple of weeks ago. It crashed hard into our terraza glass door and was laying on its side breathing heavily with its beak open, not a good sign.

Turdus grayi, La Ceiba, HondurasI think this may be the same bird that we've rescued before − once from Chloe, once from the drainage canal, and another time I rescued a baby and put it back in the nest. Expert Daniel of Hondubirding identified it as a Zorzal (Turdus grayi - Clay colored robin). I'm not sure if this is the same bird though because the belly looks more yellow than the photos I've seen.

Turdus grayi, La Ceiba, HondurasI held it for a while and then put it in a safe place to recuperate where the dogs wouldn't bother him. When I checked on him a little later, he flew away.

Oh, by the way, the nighttime snake videos came out black and I thought that listening to a few minutes of Chloe barking and me screaming would be boring.
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