Snakes, Why Did It Have To Be Snakes

, , , , | Right | June 20, 2018

(I am working at a wildlife clinic where we care for injured or orphaned animals brought in by the public. A somewhat anxious-looking woman comes in to the exam room, gingerly holding a small, sealed plastic sandwich bag away from her body. I can’t see what’s in the baggie, because it’s very thickly frosted on the inside with ice crystals.)

Woman: *drops baggie on counter, making a faint clunking sound* “I need you to take a look at this snake for me. It was in my garage.”

Me: *thinking she wants me to ID the species; something we’re asked to do sometimes when people are worried about venomous snakes* “Sure, no problem.” *starts to open baggie*

Woman: *screams and jumps back* “No! DON’T OPEN IT!”

Me: “Ma’am, I can’t see the snake well enough through all the frost to tell what species it is. I have to open it.”

Woman: “But it might get loose! It’ll bite me!”

Me: “Ma’am, the snake is dead. It can’t bite anyone, I promise.”

Woman: “You don’t know that! It might still be alive! What if it’s poisonous? How do you know for sure it’s dead?”

Me: “Well, for one thing, it’s frozen solid—”

Woman: *interrupts* “It could thaw out!”

Me: “Not instantly, ma’am; and aside from that, the snake itself appears to be half-flattened, and in four separate pieces. Trust me: it’s very, very dead.”

Woman: “It was under the garage door. I made my husband cut it up with the shovel. It could be poisonous! Be careful; it might still bite! Why aren’t you wearing gloves?” *points to the gauntlets we use for eagles*

Me: “Those aren’t for snakes, ma’am. Don’t worry; I’m a professional. Besides, this is a black rat snake, a baby one. It’s nonvenomous and completely harmless.”

Woman: “It’s not a black snake! It’s got diamonds on it! It’s a copperhead, I know it!”

Me: “Black rat snakes start out patterned; they don’t turn black until later. And copperheads are copper-colored, hence the name. This snake is silver. Copperheads are actually pretty rare in this area. This snake is harmless, I promise. Actually, some people like having rat snakes around because they keep the mice at bay!”

Woman: *suddenly angry* “Well, fine, then. You might be a big snake lover, but it could’ve been poisonous. I had to kill it! I could have died.”

Me: “Well, luckily, this one wasn’t! Have a nice day!”

(The woman leaves.)

Coworker: “What the hell was that all about?”

Me: “Uh, I guess she really doesn’t like snakes.”

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