If you, like Annie Chimpanzee, do not like the sight of snakes, beware that there are some photos of a snake in this blog post.
Today I was outside on the new side of the building while the door was open to the Courtyard. Willy B had been out once, but was back inside the building. Honey B was on the down slope of the chute, towards the door to the Courtyard.
This is actually significant. She has been avoiding that part of the chute, especially when the door to the Courtyard is open. Perhaps she’s making plans to eventually go outside. To acknowledge her progress, I went around to the other side of the chute to say hello.
While I was standing there, we both spotted a snake slithering by on the ground. The only kind of snakes we worry about around here are rattlesnakes, and I knew right away that’s not what this snake was. I just looked it up and it appears to be a yellow-bellied racer (thanks, Google).
Usually when chimpanzees see snakes of any kind, they emit loud alarm calls, but that’s not what Honey B did.
Instead, she whimpered and stuck her fingers through the caging, asking for reassurance. So, I gave her the back of my gloved hand to touch, told her it was okay, and that, surprisingly, was that.
I was keeping my eye on the snake, mostly because I didn’t want Willy B to get startled if he decided to go back outside into the Courtyard. I’m not exactly sure what my plan was to keep him from seeing the snake… maybe if the snake started to head into the Courtyard I would have called for Kelsi or J.B. to bring out something enticing so Willy B was distracted.
Luckily, I didn’t have to enact my (lack of a) plan, because the snake stayed in place as Willy B ventured back into the Courtyard and went about his business of being stunningly handsome.
Snakes don’t normally bother me; I don’t know why. But I will admit that this snake made me a little uncomfortable today. Not frightened, more a feeling of social awkwardness.
Perhaps sensing that I was watching him/her, my gaze was returned, and the snake remained looking at me the entire time Willy B was in the Courtyard.
Soon, it was time for lunch for Willy B, Honey B, and Mave, so they all went back into the building and I busied myself with other things. Rather, Jamie busied me with other things, specifically walking around the hill while she collected cattails:
as Missy watched from a perch up high:
Side note: we are still limiting Jody’s activity while her sutures heal, so her cattails were delivered to her in the front rooms:
About 20 minutes later, I heard some alarm calls coming from the direction of the greenhouse. I had a feeling I knew what this was about…
Sure enough, Kelsi reported that the snake had found its way into the greenhouse and the chimpanzees on that side of the building were not reacting in the surprisingly calm manner that Honey B had earlier.
Annie in particular REALLY DOES NOT LIKE SNAKES, and she was doing most of the alarm calling/screaming:
Fun fact: when the chimpanzees are screaming, Wilson, a pit bull / bull mastiff rescue who lives with me and J.B. on the property, howls. It is the only time he howls, but he does it reliably if he is within earshot of the chimps screaming. If they are merely pant hooting or food grunting, he lets that go.
Read the following as the sarcasm it was intended to be, and include the proper inflection for air quotes: If you are wondering why we allow a 100lb dog to sit on our picnic table, well I really don’t need your questions or opinions on “good” or “bad” dog behavior or whether establishing “rules” for dogs are important. Please, let me get back to the story.
So, I’m sitting outside listening to Annie seriously losing it and Wilson howling, and I’m picturing that poor snake, who really had no idea what she/he had in store for themselves today.
Some of the more brave chimpanzees (NOT ANNIE), will approach snakes and try to either throw them or whack them, or some combination of those moves. Foxie and Jamie are usually the two who take this upon themselves. Kelsi came back and reported that is exactly what happened and that the snake appeared to be dead because it was lying upside down and not moving.
The chimpanzees came to that same logical conclusion and left the snake to go do other things.
I went out to the greenhouse quite a bit later and saw the snake as Kelsi had described.
Then I watched as Missy approached it and poked it with something.
The snake was alive!
What ensued was predictable – another round of Annie screaming as Foxie, Jamie, and this time Burrito too, tried to dispatch the snake in whatever way they could.
I grabbed the snake tongs that we have for capturing rattlesnakes (we’ve only had to use them a handful of times in the last dozen years), and attempted to convince Jamie to coax the snake in the direction of the caging where I was waiting with the tongs. She looked at me quizzically and did not go along with this plan.
Kelsi attempted to pick up the snake with a piece of plastic tubing through the caging, but that too was not successful. Eventually, the snake got itself into a rather hidden place in the greenhouse and everyone calmed back down.
Jamie knew exactly where the snake was. I later saw her watching the spot where it had disappeared from a very safe vantage point at the top of the platform.
The day progressed, with Kelsi serving dinner to the chimpanzees in the greenhouse without any snake sightings or drama of any kind. After dinner, I was walking around the greenhouse to close the hill for the night, when I heard something in the underbrush.
Could it be?!
I closed Door Y and excitedly returned to where I had heard the rustling. I had to separate the plants to find him/her again, but there was no doubt this was my old steely gazed snake friend.
He/she slipped behind a railroad tie, wedged between that and the side of the building. It wasn’t easy, but I was finally able to lift him/her out and relocate the snake-with-nine-lives to the barn, where I hope he/she will make a nice home and not venture towards the chimp house again.