Miscellaneous Science

Snakes in the Attic

June 5, 2017
Black Snake - snakes

I learned a little lesson this weekend.  One should not worry excessively about not having a blog post idea for her self-imposed and anal blog schedule.


Well, because one might end up with snakes in her attic.

Oh my gosh.

I wonder if the builder can have our house done in one week. I know they have yet to clear the lot of the three massive trees that are standing in the way, but at least the tiny house is no longer there.  Right?

Tiny House on the Truck - Snakes

Hey – I am not unrealistic.  They do it all the time on that show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

A few weeks ago (here) I bragged about how palatial our rental is compared to our dilapidated 720 square foot lake house. I was so excited to have more space and to have a home where carpenter ants weren’t roaming as if they owned the place.  And a place that was not…..a tiny and run-down house.

Little did I know.  Perspective.

All good things must come to an end or at some point something rears its ugly head.  It could be a snake’s head.  Or, something dead decaying in the depths of an attic.

Or, both.

Shortly after we moved in, we noticed a retched odor coming from the drain in the kitchen sink. Despite the landlord’s valiant effort to rid us of the problem, it is still there. The silver lining – at least I’m not bent over the sink washing dishes. After all, we have the luxury of a dishwasher now – something our tiny kitchen at the lake house could not accommodate.

My youngest asked excitedly if we were going to have “one of these” (read dishwasher) in the new house. When I responded with a yes, he exclaimed, “Mommy! You won’t have to do dishes anymore!”  My heart felt so full from his response.  He was thrilled I would have one less chore.  Even though, I had kind of grown fond of washing the dishes and watching the wildlife of the lake and land as I honed my dishpan hands.

But now, I realize how much more time I have to do other things instead of washing dishes three to four times a day!

Well, we finally conquered all of the moving boxes, accepted the fact that our sink was going to be stinky, and we had just begun to stretch out our arms and legs in our rental, when a dead smell began to permeate from the walls and/or ceiling of our master bedroom.  It is honestly hard to tell.  But the source is definitely something dead, or something living that smells dead.

The great thing about renting is that you just call someone and tell them the problem and they come along and check it out.  It’s a no-hassle situation.  Well, the handyman happened by the next day and climbed into the attic.  He returned to the garage floor proclaiming he found nothing, but that given the type of insulation, it was kind of hard to see.


He did say it seemed to smell stronger as he ventured in the direction of our bedroom.


Well, we concluded we would simply have to wait out the decomposing thing.

So, for the last five nights or so, we have taken up residence sleeping on the Ikea pull out sofa bed in the living room, which we purchased for our previous micro-living situation.  I have now concluded it is a must-have for those who wish to limit the stay of their house guests.  😉

And, despite us sleeping in a different location, my daughter still finds where we are and slips in between us in the middle of the night.  And, as she has done for several months, she proceeds to damage parts of our bodies with her tiny but fierce appendages.  Unfortunately, selling organs on eBay is no longer an option for us should things get tight.

Our organs are damaged.

And, I am tired.

Well, on Sunday afternoon after a well-needed nap, I flitted off to a six year-old’s birthday party with my youngest. Apparently, my husband grew impatient with the decomposition process and in our absence took matters into his own hands.  He put on a show for the other two kids and ventured into the attic to investigate.

So, while I was soothing my son who was traumatized by laser tag at the 6 year-old birthday party, my husband calls.  I pick up despite the din of the arcade meets bounce house meets basketball court meets laser tag place and he nonchalantly says, “Really quick.  I have two things.  One, there are snakes living in the attic.  And, two: should I get us a hotel room?”

Oh my gosh.

Good thing those party places have CPR certified people. 😉

After he was in the attic for about 30 seconds, he discovered two very large black snakes.  One was slithering about and the other was coiled up (likely over her incubating brood).  And, they weren’t anywhere close to the location of the decomposing creature odor.

For your reference – this is a black snake.

Black snake - snakes

So, despite the startling discovery, the dead smell still remains a mystery.  He found no dead body, no murder weapon, but of course – the murder weapon could be the snakes.

Perhaps we should invite said snakes down to slumber on the sofa bed.  Surely, they would grow weary and leave?  Especially after being bruised by my daughter in her aerobic slumber.

Oh my gosh.

My parents had a wild animal book when I was growing up.  It was easily two inches thick and housed pages and pages of beautiful photographs of animals from around the world.  My sister and I would pinch a certain page as we turned it, knowing exactly where the snake page was, so we wouldn’t accidentally touch the images of the snakes.

I know snakes are a vital part of our world and ecosystem, but that does not mean I have to like them.

One time a copperhead was in our breezeway at our white house.  It appeared there moments after I had taken the trash can to the curb, inches from where the trashcan was.  My husband, who I call LOML (read why here) was in NYC dining at a nice restaurant.  He didn’t answer his phone, so I called my oldest sister.  She told me to look at its eyes.

“Look at its eyes!?”  I exclaimed back at her through the phone.  Then, I think I followed up with something like, yes I’m going to run out to it and say, “Um, excuse me sir, ahem, madam…um, potentially poisonous, sharp-fanged reptile, can I take a gander at your eyeballs?”

I hung up with her and I called a snake catcher to come and get the serpent.  Then, I spent the next 30 minutes watching the snake from various viewing points in my house (read running from window to window to door and back).  I called the snake catcher back at least three times to alert him to the fact the snake was moving and to find out how long it was going to be before he arrived.

I’m not sure why he didn’t just tell me he was at a bar finishing up his beer and then he’d be right over because when he arrived – I swear he was inebriated.  He wildly and sporadically chased the snake back and forth within the bushes in his flip flops, by the light of his iPhone, with a fishing net while my elderly neighbor held a flashlight on the front stoop.

This is the culprit.

Copperhead in my breezeway - snakes

Don’t you love my picture quality?  That is what a photograph looks like when you zoom in through the kitchen window while perched on the kitchen counter at dusk.  And, for your future reference, all photos I take of snakes will be of the same quality.

During the eternal snake catching saga, I stood on the mudroom stairs and screeched when I saw it poke its head out of the pine straw.  Public service announcement:  get mulch.

I am not kidding around.

Mr. Drunk Snake Catcher finally captured the copperhead and barely missed getting it into his tiny bucket in my driveway.  Then, I wrote him a check for too much money.  And he drove away, likely to evade any DUI ticket given a copperhead was riding shotgun.

By the way, does anyone have a chiropractor recommendation?  It seems I will be sleeping on the sofa bed a while longer.  And, please don’t tell me that the snakes can get into our living space because honestly, ignorance might just be bliss on this one.

Until the pest man arrives…journey on my friends – just not in the attic of my rental!  Eek!

And, make sure you read on below in case you do encounter a snake (in the U.S.) it will help you will know whether it is dangerous or not.  But, as I always tell my kids:  if you see a snake get away from it!  And, unless you are a herpetologist, my recommendation for you is the same!

How do you tell a venomous snake from a non-venomous snake

First of all, there are four venomous snakes in the United States (perhaps I will venture down the path of the poisonous snakes of the world in a future post):

They are the Copperhead, Rattlesnake, Water Moccasin and Coral Snake.

Copperhead snakes

Copperhead. This is a baby – identifiable by its yellow tail.


Rattle Snakes

Rattlesnake. There are 16 varieties in the United States. Their patterns do differ.


Water Moccasin Snakes

Water Moccasin, also known as Cottonmouth


Coral Snakes

Coral Snake

There are four main ways to tell a venomous snake from a non-venomous snake in the United States:

  1. Look at the head.  Most venomous snakes have a triangular-shaped head.
  2. Observe their colors.  Some venomous snakes, like the coral snake, are brightly colored.
  3. Look into their eyes (within reason people!).  Some venomous snakes have vertical eye slits, versus round pupils which are usually seen in non-venomous snakes.
  4. Look for a pit between the snake’s eyes and nostrils.  Venomous snakes usually have a heat-sensitive pit, which helps them locate prey.  Non-venomous snakes do not.

And, please take a close look at these cases of mistaken identity, which could prove to be useful for you.  Again, the best thing to do is to leave the snake alone!

Well, except if it is in your house, then call a professional to remediate that problem!  Hopefully, by the time you read this, our black snakes will be on a journey to their new home far, far away from here!

xo, Melissa a.k.a. the mamabrain at mamabrains

Snakes - Mistaken Identity

Image by Roger Williams Park Zoo




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