Today, Wyokiddo and I went to play at the reservoir a few miles from our house. The water is so high right now, there wasn’t really much beach for her to play on, but we found some shallow water and some silt and she entertained herself for the better part of an hour.
I entertained myself watching the snakes. In the cottonwoods lining the reservoir, I spotted two snakes about 30 feet above the water. Each was well over five feet long (bullsnakes if I had to make a guess). They would climb the trunk, slither out on a branch, find where two branches grew together and slither to the next tree. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I was captivated and terrified all at the same time. In drawing up my pros and cons list for moving here, I forgot to put SNAKES in big, bold, capital letters in the con column.
Sure we had snakes in Boulder, but they were garter snakes and confined to just a few places in the mountains. Ten Sleep had rubber boas that were amazingly cool and looked like giant earthworms. And we’d see rattlesnakes when we were antelope hunting in the Washakie badlands, like in this photo. Eastern Wyoming is home to garter snakes, bull snakes, rattlesnakes, racers and gopher snakes, all of which could be hanging out withing a few yards of our house.
And the bird farm where we live is a snake mecca. Birds eat grain. Grain attracts mice and mice attract snakes. I know it’s only a matter of time before we have an encounter with a rattlesnake, and it terrifies me. Am I being rational? Well, no.
According to the Department of Wildlife at the University of Flordia, “Fewer than one in 37,500 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. each year (7-8,000 bites per year), and only one in 50 million people will die from snakebite (5-6 fatalities per year). Did you know that you are nine times more likely to die from being struck by lightning than to die of venomous snakebite?”
In my rational mind, I understand those statistics. And I know that snakes do a service by eating mice and other vermin that spread disease. But the fear is real enough to me that I refuse to let our dogs or Wyokiddo play in the tall grass in areas around the pheasant pens. And I struggle with this fear, because I want Wyokiddo to grow up respecting these amazing creatures not being deathly afraid of them, like me.
And that was before I saw them climb trees…Sweet Jesus, this might be a long summer.