Note: I realize that what follows is pretty much business as usual for some of you who live in regions where these encounters are commonplace, but for West Texas folks like us, it's a brand new day, full of wondrous natural delights...and some things that are not quite so delightful.
The Hill Country weather has been abnormally hot and humid lately. This seems to have made the wildlife around our house more active, given the nearby creek's attraction as a water and food source.
Tuesday provided some interesting (and disturbing) interactions with that wildlife. My wife commented that if there had been two of each of the animals we encountered, she would have started looking for an ark.
It began around 8:30 a.m. as MLB and I walked to the mailbox to drop off a couple of letters. As we rounded the corner, I saw what I thought was a tree branch lying in the street a few yards before the creek crossing. I joked to her that there was a snake in the road...but instantly realized that, well, yes...it IS a snake. As we got closer, I realized that it wasn't just any snake. It was a water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus, for you herp experts).
Growing up and living in West Texas, I have never seen a cottonmouth in real life. We had heard stories that they had been spotted in our new neighborhood in the past (one of our neighbors across the creek said they had killed one in their back yard), but I assumed those were very isolated cases. And perhaps they were, but as with stocks, past performance doesn't necessarily predict future results.
We cautiously approached the snake and my initial identification was confirmed as it opened its mouth and I could see the fangs as well as the coloring that gives it its nickname. My usual initial reaction kicked in and I grabbed my phone and began videoing the encounter (see below). You can hear me instruct my wife to go back to the house and retrieve a hoe so that I could deal with the moccasin in a safe manner.
By the way, all of the videos here were taken with my 3-year-old iPhone, hence the weird layout and sub-optimal resolution. I wish they were better quality, but the best camera is the one you have with you when you need it.
It wasn't until a pickup drove past that the snake began to move away, about the same time MLB arrived with the hoe. I took a couple of futile swings at it as it slithered into the grass heading back toward the creek, and finally connected. That slowed it down enough for me to eventually shorten its length by a head.
As alert Gazette readers may recall, this isn't our first encounter with a poisonous snake in Horseshoe Bay, and as I said then, I take no pleasure in killing an animal. But as with that rattler, this creature posed an immediate danger to people and pets and letting it go was simply not a wise option.
Here's an interesting (to me, anyway) side note. I never realized that water moccasins are in the same genus as copperheads. I knew they were both pit vipers (as are rattlesnakes), but I had no idea they are that closely related. I suppose it's only a matter of time before we encounter a copperhead.
This was just the beginning of our wildlife encounters on Tuesday.
Later, around dusk, I spied something sniffing around the armadillo trap in the back yard. It was a skunk! Without getting too close, I was able to observe him over the course of ten or fifteen minutes. I'd never gotten that close to one, and it was interesting to watch the unconscious lifting of the tail in response to unusual sounds or movement, while the animal never stopped sniffing and digging for food.
If the skunk was ever aware of my presence, it gave no indication.
I set out our raccoon trap shortly after dusk, and a couple of hours later, we looked out the back window and spotted something moving around it. We couldn't tell if it was inside or outside the trap, so I grabbed a flashlight (and, of course, my phone) to investigate. Here's what I found:
While I'm not crazy about the idea of possums roaming through our yard, I much prefer the live roaming kind to the dead stinking kind.
That was the last of our wildlife encounters for the day...but not for the week. Remember the raccoon trap I mentioned above? Check back...