Marty’s photo of the day #3069: The following story, “Russians and the Cottonmouth,” comes from my second book, Endangered Edens: Exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica, the Everglades, and Puerto Rico:
After a great day of alligators, snakes, and birds, I reluctantly turned my car around and headed west on the Loop Road. I stopped several more times to enjoy the wildlife, and was just reaching the part of the road where the landscape opens up and cars pick up speed, when I noticed two people standing in the distance. As I neared, I saw why and quickly pulled to the shoulder. Two young men were taking videos of a cottonmouth with their mobile phones.
The venomous snake was coiled in the middle of the road, refusing to move. I introduced myself to the men and soon learned they were tourists from Russia. They didn’t have the slightest idea what kind of snake they were dealing with.
Normally I would never take over someone else’s find, but in this case, I had to make an exception to my self-imposed rules of wildlife-spotting etiquette and insist they stand back while I moved the snake. (After informing the Russians that cottonmouths were venomous, they didn’t have a problem with that.)
I have years of experience working with snakes, but when it comes to serpents of the venomous kind, I’m no Jeff Corwin or Steve Irwin. Besides, if a venomous snake bit me because of a stupid maneuver, Deb would kill me the moment I left the hospital.
So rather than attempt to move the cottonmouth by hand, I planned to use a stick. But could we find a long, sturdy stick nearby? No-ooo! I would have to make do with what could best be described as a muscular twig.
Like me, the Russians understood the importance of what we were doing: if the snake remained where he was, he wouldn’t last an hour. After a quick photo session, our international rescue operation commenced. With one Russian halting traffic and the other filming the process, I gently tried to move the cottonmouth off the road.
The snake, of course, wasn’t happy about this. All he was doing was soaking up heat from the gravel to raise his body temperature for the upcoming cool night, and three giants were hindering his efforts. Whenever I’d pick him up, he’d slide off the twig. The going was slow, and the line of cars was getting longer, but eventually we accomplished the task and celebrated with a round of high-fives.
I’m sure somewhere out there, on the Internet, is the Russian’s video of our Great Cottonmouth Rescue. Should you ever come across it, please email me the link.