Young’s Hill, the chimps’ two-acre outdoor enclosure, is home to quite a few snakes. The entire sanctuary is surrounded by a rattlesnake fence, which helps keep the truly dangerous snakes out, but many harmless garter snakes were already living here when we built the enclosure.
At first, the chimps were afraid to touch even the smallest garter snake. They would use tools to try to kill them, because they were afraid to use their bare hands. One time, Jamie used a hardcover children’s book to try to chop one to death. Another time, she used a pasta spoon. Over the years, they’ve discovered that garter snakes are relatively harmless, so they’ve become more comfortable going after them with their hands.
But this was the most unusual strategy that I have seen yet.