Red On Yellow, Kill A Fellow


A small sampling of some of the birds from today. Top and right – egret. Bottom left – little black fishing bird – don’t know what it’s called.

One of the perks of living on a little lake is all of the animals that love living by the water as much as you do. Since we’ve lived here we’ve seen in our backyard:

  • Lots of “everyday” wildlife like ducks, squirrels, bunnies, turtles, etc
  • Tons of water birds like egrets, anhingas, great blue herons, storks, and even a few bald eagles
  • An entire fez of armadillo lived under our neighbor’s fence for a winter and would come around every night (Thats right, a group of ’em is called a Fez!-Mr Pop)
  • A family of otters (now with 2 otter pups – so cute!) uses our little lake as a vacation home, so we see them every once in a while
  • A wide variety of snakes =(


Herpetologists aren’t allowed to hate me, because I’m not anti-snake. I swear. I’m just anti-“snakes that find their way into our pool cage and end up as playmates with Kitty PoP”. Seriously, he thinks they are too much fun to play with. Still, I didn’t really worry about it too much until a couple months ago…


Red On Yellow Kill A Fellow, Red On Black Friend of Jack <click to tweet this!>

Kitty PoP was out doing his pre-dawn patrol around the pool while I was getting ready for an early morning run, and I noticed that he was very excited about something. By the time I got out there, I could see an unfamiliar snake burrowing into the rock bed just outside the pool cage – and its coloring hit an alarm bell in my brain. Was this one poisonous? I swooped up Kitty PoP and ran into the house reciting “red on yellow, red on yellow” to check if that was the poisonous one.


Later that day, I was 99% convinced that I had seen an Eastern Coral Snake, and yes, it’s got a deadly venom. But on the bright side, it is pretty afraid of people, so Mr. PoP and I weren’t in any serious danger by its presence. The bad news was that Kitty PoP had already proven that he likes to play with snakes, and if this new snake ended up on Kitty PoP’s side of the screen, a bite from it could be the end of Kitty PoP. Friggin’ cat, right? Who plays with snakes? Our cat. Jeez.


What To Do?

Sorry the picture’s not the best – but those are maroon and black bands separated from each other by bright yellow. Dead ringer for an Eastern Coral Snake. A cell phone camera at night can only do so much with a venomous snake that refuses to pose properly!

Of course, I worried myself into a frenzy that day, and we called an animal removal company. They quoted us $289 for their snake removal service (which comes with a lot of smelly mothballs and no guarantees of any snake removal). We did resist the $1000’s of dollars in add-on purchases that they were offering ($100/month for snake repellant service? No thank you, I had researched enough to know that’s just snake oil!) But, we knew we’d blame ourselves if something happened to Kitty PoP and we had done nothing. So we paid the $289.

What did we get for the money? A couple of kids walked around the property, found snake skins in our bushes and killed a few harmless ringsnakes. They set traps and came back to check them diligently every day for two weeks. With the exception of the ringsnakes, nothing turned up. A complete waste of money.

And what do you know, as soon as the snake removal service was complete, the Eastern Coral Snake came back. I snapped this picture three nights after the snake removal people took away all their traps. Not wanting to throw good money after bad, I actually called up the local herpetology society to see if they had any advice. Turns out, the president of the society lives 10 minutes away, and he’s now in my phone’s contact list. He looked at my picture and said my ID of the snake was spot on, and that the coral snakes were rare enough around here that if we ever saw it again we should call him up and he’ll come out to do a live capture for free.

Mr. PoP is slowly replacing the screening with pet-proof screening so Kitty PoP can no longer bite through it and create little holes. (We think that might be where the snakes get in, but have no way to test the theory.) And in the meantime, Kitty PoP isn’t allowed out by himself when it’s dark.

Did we buy snake oil?

Did we make the right call? We know we bought the chance at catching the coral snake, and we would have been patting ourselves on the back for money well spent if they had captured the snake. But it didn’t work. So the $289 feels like a lot of money wasted in hindsight, but how would we have felt if Kitty PoP (or heaven forbid a friend’s kid or something) were bitten and we had done nothing to prevent it?


What would you have done if you were in our shoes? Spent the $289? Bought the $1,000+ in upgraded snake repellant services? Or spent nothing and just crossed your fingers? Or something else?

9 comments to Red On Yellow, Kill A Fellow

  • My cat likes to play with snakes too so if I had any doubts I’d probably have paid the $289. I don’t think I would have gone with the extras they were trying to sell but my kitty is prescious to me. Nice call on calling the snake people–hopefully it doesn’t come back but if it does, you get free snake removal and will be doing them a favor.

    • I’m glad it’s not just our silly cat that likes to play with snakes – I just wish we could train him otherwise! Why is he afraid of strange people but not snakes?

  • I hate it when they try and upsell you! That’s a bit like when I take Ralph to the vet- I used to get so frustrated that they’d try to sell me on expensive exams as preventive care and it used to make me feel so worried and guilty..they’d try and get me to bring him in 3 times a year for these preventive checkups and while I want what’s best for my dog, I don’t even get to see the doctor that much… and each visit was about $200 at least!

    Yikes! $289 is a lot of money but you couldn’t have known the outcome ahead of time :(

    • Wow – your vet upsells you by scaring you? That feels wrong, like a skeezy auto mechanic. I hope Ralph stays in perfect health for a long, long time!

  • That’s a ton of money for something that they didn’t even fix! it’s cool though that you called a local snake guy who would be happy to get it for you for free…that seems like the best option. I’m a fan of leaving nature alone and not killing things unnecessarily, but if that snake guy can come and bring that snake to a place away from where you live, well, that would be pretty awesome!

    PS Awesome job identifying that snake.

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