September 12, 2011

The snake in my garage

The other day, I stepped into my garage in bare feet and stepped right onto a little garter snake. I jumped and screamed. I know that a garter snake will do me no harm, but still, that’s my instinctive reaction.

As the snake wriggled away from me, unharmed, I grabbed a snow shovel to gently nudge it out the door. The door, I think, was what had attracted the snake in the first place: the bottom edge is frayed black rubber that gets nice and warm on sunny days, the perfect place for a snake to snuggle. I figured it was an unusual happening, and I’d scared the snake off.

But then two days later, I went out to the garage to find my cleats, and the snake was there again, wriggling across the floor just below the steps. So this weekend, when I was on a field trip with students and colleagues, I asked their advice on how to discourage snakes from coming into my home. I knew that at least one of the students at the picnic table had taken herpetology.

“Maybe if I could find a scent they hate,” I said. “Do snakes smell?”

“Yes,” said Herpetology Student, “that’s what they’re doing when they flick out their tongues.”

“You’d think they’d smell our cats,” I said. “But then again, I’ve got 6 cats, and we still get mice in the garage.”

 “A garter snake will eat the mice,” said Herpetology Student. “You ought to keep it around.”

 “Yeah, why would you want to get rid of the snake?” asked another student. I looked at him.

He grinned. “No, really. Learn to embrace the snakes!”

 Just then Chemistry Lab Guy walked over to join the conversation.“Any ideas about how to discourage snakes from coming into my garage?” I asked.

 He answered immediately. “You need a mongoose.”

 Yes, of course.


Heidi said...

I think I'd take a snake over mice.

Rana said...


Anonymous said...

I loved Rikki-Tikki-Tavi! You totally should get a mongoose.


jo(e) said...

Yeah, but that story took place in India. I live in upstate New York. Where am I going to get a mongoose?

Jodie said...

The moral of the story is "pick your poison"?

At work we had a mouse problem which led to hiring a bunch of cats. The cats needed food, which attracted a raccoon. You think mice in the attic is a problem, you should try a raccoon in the attic. They have much bigger bladders.

I'd keep the snake. Better the evil you know.

jo(e) said...

Ha! That made me laugh.

Remember the book "The King, the Mice, and the Cheese"? The king brought in cats to get rid of the mice that were eating his cheese. Then he brought in dogs to get rid of the cats, then lions to get rid of the dogs, then elephants to get rid of the lions. Then he brought back the mice to get rid of the elephants.

Things in my garage haven't escalated quite that far yet.

fairbetty said...

I totally agree. You need a mongoose!

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

My parents killed a bull snake the first year they moved into their cabin, and every year after that they've killed a rattlesnake. Turns out, bull snakes eat rattlesnakes.

Hey, I know what. Get Little Biker Boy to catch him and you can put him (the snake, not the boy) in a fishtank w/ a lid -- some have wire mesh lids -- and he can offer it to his teacher as the class pet! Then when LBB gets restless in school, they can send him outside to catch bugs for the snake.

Danny Bradfield said...

"Embrace the Snakes." Great quote.

nimiecat said...

mothballs. Was told that snakes do not like the scent once when we found a copperhead skin in our basement.

Jeff said...

At least it is non-poisonous. Last year a venomous rattlesnake escaped from Zoo Atlanta (we live a few blocks away from the zoo) and was found across the street dead on a porch...clubbed to death by the home owner.

jo(e) said...

Jeff: Oh, wow. The reaction of the home owner seems a bit harsh though. Clubbed to death?

jo(e) said...

Nimiecat: Ah, if I decide not to embrace the snake and welcome it into my home, I might try mothballs.

jo(e) said...

Jennifer: I do need to get Biker Boy over to see the snake. He'll be thrilled.

Magpie said...

would a mongoose like your climate?

also, jumping/screaming when you step on anything unexpected is normal. i did that this morning when i stepped on a piece of dry cat kibble.

Jenny F. Scientist, PhD said...

I stepped, barefoot, on a dead vole first thing in the morning once (thanks, cat) and, likewise, screamed. So I can hardly blame you! Aaaaah! Squirmy things underfoot!

Love the herpetology student, too.

BrightenedBoy said...

I'm all about your harmony with nature, but there is no way I'd be okay with a snake in my garage.