At Odds With Bird Netting


As you might imagine, The Orianne Society fields a good number of phone calls from folks seeking advice when snakes and humankind collide. Some calls are based in fear, others in sympathy, but all have a certain level of respect for wildlife. Friday, June 14th was no different. Well, actually, it was a little different.

The end of a good week’s work here at The Orianne Society’s Georgia headquarters office was in sight that day. Then came a knock at the door, and a kind lady introduced herself, saying she had a carload of kids that needed delivering to an event really soon, and that a “brownish or blackish” snake had gotten himself hung up at her home in her flower garden’s bird netting. Oh, and would we be able to help the unfortunate snake?

Oh, dear. Bird netting. The menace to snakes caused by bird netting is quite well-documented, and when trapped within such netting, entangled snakes may strike at anything that moves. I know I would! Many snakes die a slow, sad death in bird netting. To make things worse, they’re so bound by such netting that they may appear dead, when in fact they’re quite alive, indeed!

But, back to the lady’s plea. I stayed quiet and gave my two Orianne co-worker scientists time to absorb it all, and thought I was surely off the hook, since I am not a scientist and easily the least qualified in the office that day. Then she gave her address. It was but a stone’s throw from my house in southeast Rabun County, Georgia. It came right out of my mouth, “I’ll do it.”

And so, I did it. I left work, and then followed her scribbled instructions to the scene of the unfortunate mess. After what seemed like an hour, I located the little guy in a very messy ball of tangled nylon netting. He looked to be a desperate, totally immobilized Southern Black Racer. He was in a heck of a mess.

I could see that any rescue was going to take some time and care, so I took him, and all the bird netting I could grab, found some shade, and set to work.

It was slow, methodical, tedious, but most rewarding when the final collar-like band of netting freed him from bondage. It’s said a Racer can be a handful, and I’m sure his near exhaustion tempered him a bit, but after that final snip, he totally made a deliberate turn toward my fingers and the scissors, then, at least to me, seemed to say “Thank you” as only a wild animal can, with their look and posture. And then, he was off and gone, looking particularly excited about getting right back to his now snake-friendly surroundings.

Although I’m not part of The Orianne Society’s science staff, that didn’t preclude me from working to help a snake in need. I learned several things that day. Among them, bird netting has a major down side, and saving snakes is quite rewarding. I can now better see why my Orianne Society coworkers, volunteers, members and herpers everywhere are so passionate about doing the next right thing for all snakes or perhaps just one, such as the handsome, spirited Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) I was able to help save from a bird net.

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