Drought Brings Snake Alert in Tennessee Valley

Drought in the Tennessee Valley this year is so severe that it has everyone worried. Farmers worry about harvesting enough hay to see their cows through the winter; landscapers worry that water rationing will damage their work; mayors worry that the town water supply will not hold out. As a multiple snakebite survivor, I worry when the headlines of The Decatur Daily reads, “Snake alert in the Valley.” According to writer Tiffeny Hurtado, area snakes are on the move in search of water, and no source of liquid is immune to their hunt. Snakes find the dog water, the drain pipes, and the crawl spaces. With the Valley drier than it has been in 118 years and rainfall fifty-one percent below normal, the snakes are in search of moisture and food because their food supplies, mainly field mice, have less to eat during a drought, and so are not as plentiful. “Bill Gates, a wildlife biologist at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, said snakes are on the move to find wet habitats because the drought is drying up their usual haunts.” Two nights ago, Marty McCaghren, a farmer in Morgan County was relaxing in his recliner, feeling quite secure, when he glanced up to see a snake waving at him from the window not two feet away.

In recent days of drought, Valley residents have found snakes on their washing machines, snakes crawling up the glass of their windows, and snakes on their walking paths. The snakes normally avoid human activity, but a need for water is forcing them into new patterns. Gates says that the only defense against this invasion is to seal off basements and crawl spaces beneath homes. It is also a good idea to keep lawns closely mowed and brush piles away from the house. Gates does not suggest using moth balls as a deterrent, although he admits that he has heard the old wives’ tale. If a snake does decide to visit during this drought, Valley residents might call Bill Owens, a volunteer who is willing to catch the reptiles and release them back into the wild. Bill is known as the snake buster in the area. Gates also points out that the drought could be very helpful in diminishing the number of future snakes. As the rats and mice die from starvation, the snakes’ numbers will probably diminish from a lack of food.

Source: Tiffeny Hurtado, The Decatur Daily online, “Snake Alert in the Valley.”

URL: http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/news/070620/snakes.shtml

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