Snakes in the backyard

Rattlesnake

Growing up in Toledo, OH, my younger brother found a garter snake in the back yard. We captured it and turned it into a pet. We provided it an aquarium and fed it crickets.

Unbeknownst to us, it was a female garter snake and she was pregnant. We witnessed the live birth of the baby snakes. It was quite remarkable.

I bring this up because yesterday, while I was scooping poop in the backyard, I found a garter snake lying still in the grass near a swimming pool. My son was with me, so I picked it up to show him. Apparently, 2-year-olds are scared of snakes.

I asked him what I should do with it. He said, “Put it in the water.”

I said, “Josiah, I’m not putting the snake in the swimming pool.”

I paused and looked around my environment for a moment. I didn’t want to put it in a neighbors yard and I certainly did not want to kill it. Nearby, there was a pile of wood – fallen limbs from trees stacked neatly upon one another. I decided that this would be a safe place for the snake to hide. I placed him at the base of the wood and nudged him gently with my shoe. He scurried into the wood pile.

While garter snakes are non-aggressive and their venom is too weak to harm a human or dog, this brought to mind a concern pet owners have. Snake bites.

The copperhead snake is a venomous snake that ranges all over Kentucky. According to the University of Kentucky, it is “dangerous although the bite is rarely fatal.” Other backyard snakes you might encounter in Central Kentucky include the brown snake, the eastern garter snake, the eastern milk snake, the rat snake, the northern red belly snake, and the ringneck snake. All of these are considered non-venomous.

If your dog is bitten by a snake, Drs. Foster and Smith recommend loosely immobilizing the limb. They advise not to aspirate the venom from the wound. Instead, take your pet to the vet for treatment. While not all snake bites are deadly, it’s better to be proactive than to have a casualty. Your vet may use antihistamines, IV fluid therapy, antibiotics, and other procedures to help your dog get through the snake bite.

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