Live and let die

Having moved from Houston I’ve been in my Texas country homestead for two and one-half years. Respecting the environment I’ve tried very hard never to intentionally kill any animal, bug or insect. Even when inside I trap navigationally-challenged flies, bees and spiders into an empty veggie can. Using a thin piece of cardboard as a cover I then give them freedom outside.

Why not?

Some of them probably live for only a couple of days. Imagine having to experience an entire life in just forty-eight hours?  As long as they leave me and Ernie alone [Hey tick, get the message?] live and let live is my policy.

[Note that of course mosquitoes, fire ants and especially chiggers are fair game.]

However, a recent incident with my favorite toad has put me in a conundrum.

Returning home from a three-day trip last Saturday night I resumed my routine and started making dinner about eight. Ernie was at my feet waiting for his expected treats: nibs of raw carrots and celery. Every five minutes or so I’d turn on the outside light, push back the curtain and hope to see the toad anew on the carport’s concrete at the bottom of the door. [He had been missing for about a week before I left. I was hoping that he would have returned by the time I got home.]

On the third try he still wasn’t there, but instead a foreboding five-foot long dark snake was heading directly for the vacant toad’s corner; it must have been looking for another meal. Instinctively I opened the door. [Not one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.] As soon as I did the slinker morphed into a road-runner, made a 180 and hightailed it outta there heading towards the safety of the toad sanctuary. I never would have believed that a snake could move so quickly.

Consulting my Snakes of South Texas guide it looked like a Schott’s Whipsnake:

“Fast moving; will try to escape quickly into trees or bushes if encountered; will thrash wildly & bite if captured; [feeds on] lizards, birds, small mammals.”

Since toads bother no one – and I consider them friends – my initial reaction was to try and find that snake giving it a one way ticket to perdition. However, I have already previously saved snakes around the property. One got entangled in bird mesh I used to surround my garden cage. Stuck there having practically strangled itself under a relentless sun, with a few surgical cuts only to the netting I let it loose. A dash of water and it slithered off to the neighbor’s high grass. The thought that serpents would become entwined at ground level never occurred to me.

[No bird or other animal here has ever found itself in like predicament.]


Although the passion of wanting to kill the snake has passed, an option is still to steely-eyed dish out capital punishment; of course I’d have to find it first. The intention – not an option – is to keep Toadlandia intact and viable.

The just thing to do would probably be to leave nature alone to continue its course.

However, there is that conundrum.


  • Jamie Carter Bollich

    When one is trying to preserve life, dilemmas inevitably surface. My nephew, 17, has been a natural scientist since birth and is now in a herpetology society. He’s big on the idea of people being kind to snakes and not automatically slaying them on sight. However, he’s been known to serve his pet snakes delicacies such as frozen mice. Of course, for years he had pet rats who received vet care as needed. I could ask for his ideas on deciding which critters get preferential treatment.

    • Jamie:
      You present another good example of human double-speak on the issue. I don’t know the answer except that
      each of us has to deal with this in our own way. Your nephews views are welcome.

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