Friday, September 09, 2011

Trip Down Memory Lane

"Mom Recovers From Copperhead Bite."

This woman was bitten on one of the trails at the Carolina Raptor Center, up the road from Charlotte in Huntersville, NC. It's on the grounds of Latta Plantation Park, a park and nature preserve in the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department.

I used to hike up there and visit the Raptor Center regularly. Because raptors in the outdoor aviaries along the nature trails are fed on a diet of dead rodents, snakes tend to be drawn to the area, since rodents make up a large portion of many snakes' diets.

One of the features at the Raptor Center is a "weathering area" where a number of raptors are displayed for public photography without cages and wire fencing ruining the shot; a waist-high circular fence keeps visitors at a safe distance from the birds. A volunteer is always on duty in the weathering area to give lectures and answer questions.

On one occasion about 20 years ago I was visiting the Raptor Center with my young nephew, and as we approached the weathering area I saw a copperhead on the ground ahead of us, actually entering the weathering area. I called on my nephew to stop, and, raising my voice, notified the volunteer working there about the presence of the snake: she ran off to get help, came back with a garden hoe and another Raptor Center staffer. They didn't seem competent or eager to deal with the snake, so I volunteered my services, asked if they wanted the snake alive or dead, and when they said alive, I proceeded to capture the snake by pinning his head to the ground with the flat surface of the hoe. I carefully picked the snake up by the neck and placed it in a sack that was provided. The snake was taken to the park office and displayed in a terrarium, my nephew and I stopped by on the way home to visit it.

I've seen snakes at the Raptor Center on two other occasions, as well. Once I came across a Southern Hognosed Snake while on the nature trail, and on another occasion one of the volunteers had captured a Black Racer near the weathering area.

Tip: if you have a fear of snakes and don't want them around, it's best not to keep bird feeders on your property. Seeds spilled from the feeder fall to the ground and attract mice and other rodents, and rodents attract snakes.

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