Early this spring I startled a small and very colorful snake in my barn. It was about 1.5-2 feet long, cream color with red blotches outlined in black, a juvenile Eastern milk snake. Such a beautiful creature. I have no fear of snakes, even with my early history living in North Carolina. Rattlesnakes and water moccasins appeared in the yard or the small brook near our home. As with most animals, I respect and admire snakes. I even like to hold them.
The little milk snake is very welcome in my barn as it will hunt mice, young rats and voles. Rodents are a constant trial here on the farm. Over the weeks since I spotted the young snake, I observed holes made under floor sills and assumed the slitherer was doing its job on the rodent population.
Today I went in the barn to let the chickens out for free-range time. A poor snake that looked very much like the one above was trapped. It lay on its back, hopelessly tangled in plastic netting used to contain birds. At first I thought the snake had died, but when I came near it struggled weakly. This was an adult milk snake. Either the young one I saw earlier had grown up, or this was one of its parents.
I got some pruning shears and began clipping the netting. The snake seemed to understand that I was helping. At first it tried to go forward, and then back up, all to no avail. It was completely snared in heavy strands of plastic. So it stayed perfectly still as I worked. As the constriction lessened, the snake pulled itself out of the net, but did not move away. It waited expectantly.
Finally, I noticed a thin bit of plastic net still tightly embedded in the scales and encircling the neck. The snake calmly lay there as I pushed to get the clipper blade under the plastic. That must have been painful, but the snake didn’t move. When at last the tourniquet released, the snake slowly slid off behind a door where it rested, flicking its tongue at me. I hope it was catching my scent so it could identify me in the future as the good human.