By BONNIE LATINO
Special to Atmore News
Shortly before Thanksgiving, longtime Atmore resident and Harley Davidson rider Mike Walters had to run to the store. Walters said as he started to straddle one of his older bikes, he looked down and “ … This is what I saw!”
At first he thought it was a copperhead. Fortunately it was a gray rat snake, a common nonvenomous reptile often found in Alabama. This bad boy – the snake, not Mike – was, in truth, a benign reptile that can help rid your grounds of rodents like the gray rat snake, plus lizards, frogs, mice, etc.
Inquisitive family pets, often playing outdoors, have been known to be bitten when making the acquaintance of the gray rat snake. I know this because Bella, our friendly little Havanese, attempted to inspect the face of a gray rat snake that was sunning itself in our back yard one Sunday morning. I happened to look out a large window just as the coiled snake lunged toward her! Almost simultaneously I saw Bella jump backwards and yelp! She and I had quite the shock, plus she also had what looked like two small scratches atop her snout. The common gray rat snake has no venom, nor fangs, but rather small sharp teeth to literally bite inquisitive animals or people.
We soon found a veterinarian on call and took Bella to him. Antibiotics are often recommended because of bacteria from the bite. That’s exactly what the good doc ordered for our Bella. She was never sick and had no problems afterwards.
However, we got rid of all our bird feeders. I believe that having so many birds in our back yard every day is what drew the snake. At the time, we mistakenly believed it was a poisonous snake, so Tom reluctantly killed it to take to the vet – just to be sure. My big-hearted husband, Tom Latino, normally “relocates” snakes, but sometimes a “girl dad” just has to do what’s best for his “Baby Girl.”
There is a fascinating and comprehensive group of articles about the key differences between the dreaded copperhead and the nonvenomous gray rat snake in an online blog at: https://a-z-animals.com/blog/rat-snake-vs-copperhead-7-key-differences-explained/
Bella and I highly recommend it.
Thanks to Mike Walters for allowing us to share his story and a bit of info that might just come in handy one day It was a day Mike won’t soon forget.
Atmore native Bonnie Bartel Latino is an award-winning novelist and former freelance op-ed columnist for Stars and Stripes in Europe. She lives on East Laurel Street with her husband Col. Tom Latino, USAF, retired.