About a half hour later, Papa Bear asked if I wanted him to turn the water off.
"No," I replied, "the trough has a shut-off valve and will turn itself off."
"Are you sure?" he asked, "It's spilling over."
I walked over and realized the trough was unlevel and spilling water on its far side. Before squatting down, I checked to see the ground was clear and then reached to turn the valve off.
Papa Bear pointed out the small leak on the side of the trough and I explained that within a few hours, the narrow crack would get clogged with debris and stop dripping. I reached over to adjust the ceramic bowl under the crack which collected water for the small animals and noticed a bright blue line on the ground in the shade of the trough.
"What's that?" I thought, "a skink?"
The blue line was forked and when it flicked backwards, I realized it was the tongue of a rattlesnake whose head was sticking out from underneath the trough. I jerked my hands back and while still squatting, grabbed Papa Bear's pant legs and tugged him back too. We both gasped "Rattler!" which brought Curious Bear tearing around the corner of the house. The snake must have been tucked into a hollow under the empty plastic trough, but as the heavy water filled it up, the weighted bottom flexed downwards and nudged the snake out. Boys being boys, they wanted to get closer and I kept pushing them back.
|A Northern Pacific rattlesnake warning me to stay back after I dumped it out of the snake bucket. Okay.|
"If you stay back, you can help me catch it," I said. "Just don't scare it under the trough while I get my snake gear."
We split the snake chores into three. Papa Bear had the net, Curious Bear had the bucket lid, and I had the tongs. The snake's head was just a few inches out of the trough and was partially blocked by the barbwire fence. I would have to go in at a steep angle and and would have only one chance. I successfully aimed and quickly closed the tongs firmly behind the snake's head, but it didn't move when I jerked up. Slow and steady pressure I reminded myself and soon pulled the snake between the fence wires and dropped it in the bucket.
Next I will post photos of the snakes of 2015 and you will get to vote on which one should go on the Dipper Ranch walnut label for the year.
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus