Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's A Jungle Out There

Yes, even Southern California suburban neighborhoods are teeming with wildlife at times. I caught this California King Snake on Saturday. I wasn't aware of what it was when first saw it so I was very cautious. I managed to use a couple of bamboo poles to herd it out in the open where I initially used a garbage can lid to trap it. With a little help from my neighbor we managed to get it in to a big plastic storage tub (lacking a tank at this time) where I could take a closer look at it and figure out what to do with it next.

Well, it turns out it's not very aggressive and it's not poisonous so I'm comfortable handling it. Up to this point I've only picked it up for intervals of 10 to 15 seconds. When I picked it up to put it in the water dish I provided, it sure seemed happy. I keep referring to it as 'it' because short of sticking my pinky up its anus and feeling around for some equipment or lack thereof, I have no way of determining its sex. (great, now I'm forever going to get Google hits on my blog for 'snake' and 'sex').

I may or may not keep it. I haven't determined that yet. I'm not going to spend a bunch of money on a tank, heating rock, etc. only to have these things end up on Craig's List so someone else can house a reptile that some child is just begging for. As a matter of fact, I'll be looking on Craig's List for someone that is perhaps giving away said equipment because some favored pet is now deceased. In any case, I'll at least keep it until this coming weekend so that Little Dif gets to see it. She's pretty excited about the whole thing and even determined that she's brave enough to touch it. If the snake is calm enough to let me put it around my shoulders and subsequently let her hold it on her own, I'll get a good picture of her doing so and follow up with another post.

While young, stupid and in the Marines (all redundant I know), I made the mistake once of picking up a baby Diamond Back Rattlesnake that I found curled up on the sidewalk against the building of the barracks one evening minding its own business and trying to stay warm. I was handling it correctly from the start. I used a checkbook to hold down his head while I slipped my fingers up from behind and immobilized his neck. All was well at first but one of the observers, a fellow Marine of course, was FREAKING OUT over the fact that there was even a snake in his presence and more so because I picked it up. So I did what any self-respecting member of the Difster clan would do; I chased him with it. Have you ever heard a Marine scream like a girl? This one did.

I paid the price for my little joke though. In an effort not to hurt the little guy, I was not applying enough pressure to keep him still and he managed to work his head loose just enough to bite my middle finger (imagine the irony) just below the cuticle of the nail. I tossed him in the grass, kept my finger well below the level of my heart and essentially tried to squeeze the poison back out the imperceptibly small holes from which it was injected. It was a shallow bite; a pinprick really, not the "sinking the fangs in to soft flesh" variety of bite.

I thought I was safe; there were no immediate symptoms save those feelings of stupidity and ignorance that came with getting myself bit in the first place. About 30 minutes later my finger began to swell, I had a hard time swallowing and it's as if I could feel every last capillary in my limbs vibrating and voicing their displeasure. I had to WALK over to the Regimental Aid Station because Batallion (which was closer) was closed for the day. From there it took 45 minutes for them to get a Hummer to get me to the Mainside Hospital which was a trip of about 30 minutes. Then I had to wait to be examined. FINALLY 3 to 4 hours after being bit, I was being injected with anti-venom and I was in ICU for about a day and a half. I recovered nicely with no permanent damage.

When I returned to my unit I received a mixture of both condemnation for my stupidity and a measure of respect for having the guts to pick the thing up in the first place. Needless to say, I've not attempted another rattlesnake handling though I've run across quite a few since then. I keep my distance.