For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with snakes. I’m not talking about keeping a house full of them in cages or any kind of domestication – I don’t like or agree with that. I’m saying I’ve always found them extremely interesting, mysterious and quite honestly, beautiful. I assume that’s why I’m not afraid of snakes like 99 out of 100 people seem to be whenever the subject is brought up. They’re really quite amazing creatures, and one species of snake in particular, the black rat snake, so common in our part of the country, is one to take special note of.
I was out at my grandparent’s farm last week and anyone reading this who follows my Facebook feed will know I ran across a fairly large one out there and was able to get some great pictures of it. I’ve been messing with black snakes out there for 20 years, and it’s always nice to see them out and about during the summer time (they mate in June), on the prowl for rodents, especially in a farm-type of environment where rodents such as mice, rats and moles can run amuck.
So, of course, the first thing most people say when they see a snake (no matter the species) is, “kill it!” This is unfortunate, because while some snakes probably should be taken out of this world for the sake of animal and child safety (i.e. copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes – all of which can be found in Monroe County), most snakes the average person will run across in their lifetime will be a beneficial, rodent eradicating non-venomous kind. This includes the black rat snake, which in my experience, is by far the most common snake you’ll find around Monroe County.
Let me drop some knowledge on you real quick so that you can get an idea of just how many rats and mice and other creepy rodents these snakes eat each year.
The average mouse, which tends to find its way into your house and cause panic, weighs .75 ounces. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, even a medium-sized black snake can eat up to 9 pounds of rodents (which mostly includes mice) per year. Do you have any idea how many mice that is?
Answer: 192 mice.
A lot of you reading this will put an entire household on emergency lockdown if even ONE mouse is spotted. Now let me ask you – would you rather have an inconspicuous, laid-back black snake on your land, peacefully hiding from the world, or would you rather have 192 mice gallivanting around your yard, mating and just waiting to find an opening into your home?
I thought so.
So the next time you run across one of these snakes, because, yes, they do like to come out for some sun every once-in-a-while, don’t run to the garage for the pitchfork. These snakes are working hard on a daily basis to keep the nasty, disease-ridden rodents out of your beds at night.
Show them some respect, and remember that they’re on your side.