MARTY RUSSELL: ’Tis the season of slithering sibilants

By Marty Russell

I knew we were in for trouble back in early April after a record warm March when I turned off the highway onto the country road outside of Oxford where my wife and I have lived for the past eight years and some movement on the roadside caught my eye. I slowed down for a look and there was a gray tabby cat duking it out with a very large snake.
The snake was coiled and striking and after each strike as it pulled back the cat would lunge forward and bam, bam, bam on the snake’s head with its paw.
One of my neighbors once told me that a cat, which is related to the snake-killing mongoose, will worry a snake to death. This cat seemed to have given up on worrying it and just wanted to pound it senseless.
Since then, my wife and I have seen several 3-footers in our yard. So far they’ve been the nonpoisonous variety, rat snakes, chicken snakes, king snakes, whatever you want to call them. One solid gray with no markings, another black with specks of yellow along its back. All with pointy noses, not the blunt kind that signify they’re hiding hypodermic needles filled with toxins.
For some reason they like to hang out around the front steps of our house. One even chased my wife up the steps the other day causing her to scream so loudly that, even though snakes don’t have ears, it turned tail and slithered away as fast as it could.
So it looks like we’re in for a bad year for snakes, probably because of the mild winter we had. I’m keeping an eye out for the first of the poisonous ones because I know they’re out there. We’ve had them before. Moccasins and copperheads.
A small, 8-inch copperhead once bit one of my cats, causing its paw to swell up to the size of a catcher’s mitt. The cat survived but the snake didn’t. I got into a lot of trouble with environmentalists when I wrote about killing the snake with a shovel made, ironically, by the Copperhead tool company.
They said I should keep my cats in the house and leave the snakes alone. That snakes play an important role in the world and it’s not worth killing them just to feel safe in your own backyard.
Now I love nature as much as the next person but that’s a little like Mitt Romney’s original (not revised) stance on killing Osama bin Laden when he said it wasn’t worth the effort the country had put into killing just one man.
Sorry, but I have to disagree. Some snakes are worth killing when they become a threat.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by email at marusse1@olemiss.edu.