7.28.2015

Of Mice and Various Snakes and new Duck Feed Station

As mentioned in the previous post, our region is experiencing a near-Biblical plague of mice. "It's due to all the moisture we had this Spring, plus the flood displacing so much wildlife", someone mentioned. Unfortunately, where there's a plethora of mice, there's snakes, and not just the cool ones that mind their own business and snarf down a rodent now and then. Like the rat snake we adopted from friends, which was captured due to it being lazy and hanging around the chicken coop for easy eggs. That's a cool snake.

First off, mouse management soapbox: I implore you, do NOT use sticky traps outdoors. It will trap ~anything~ that crosses its path, including small bunnies, squirrels and the aforementioned snakes, cool ones or otherwise. It's a horrible way to die. Instead, we had the local pest control company come out and install poison-bait boxes. They double-checked for us and confirmed that any poisoned mice (the product they use causes quick death via severe dehydration) are safe for consumption by both mammals and other avians, including chickens.

[Oh, speaking of chickens, "Veronica" made a full recovery, yay!!!]

Next, we're reconfiguring areas close to the house and animal shelters that are conducive to mouse habitat. We knew for sure there were mice living under one of the duck shelters. Demolishing the shelter moved to the top of the timeline lickety-split when I found a @#$!! rattlesnake in the nesting area.

Thankfully, I was awake enough during that morning egg check to see the snake before I reached down. It was having a nice snooze. I didn't recognize it at first, so got a long stick to lift it up in order to check for rattles. Rattles there? Yep. It didn't start getting annoyed until I tried to move it out, so I closed off the area to keep the birds out, got on some boots & jeans, found the square-edge shovel, and went back out. The snake was now gone. Kinda glad I didn't have to kill it, but that also meant there was a rattlesnake on the loose, the first we've seen since we moved to this property. Eep.

New duck feeding station, front view. 
Spouse made a new, bigger feed station to replace the old duck shelter /feed station (we still have one other shelter, which is plenty big enough for all). It's configured with the roof slanted and on a hinge, so the roof will shed water off the back, and the roof can also be lifted up if you don't want to bend down to grab the feeder. This weekend, he started moving the old duck shelter out of the pen and found... a couple of dead mice, and two very comfy & satisfied rattlesnakes living in the old mouse nest. No wonder the ducks were avoiding the shelter.

Spouse decapitated the snakes as quickly/humanely as he could (see square shovel still on roof of new feed station), created a stable base, and installed the new feed station to replace the old one that had been part of the now-removed old duck shelter. I may end up putting a rain gutter and spout on the back, connected to a large tub, as an additional source of water for the ducks to play in during the rainy season.

New duck feeding station, back view.
The dogs have been taken in for rattlesnake vaccines. You get the first vaccine, then a booster at three weeks, then a shot every six months. It doesn't prevent illness from bites, but instead gives the canine more time to be taken to the vet for treatment. The vet reported that one poor local dog was bitten four times, and the owner said it was the first time in 30 years they'd ever seen rattlers on their ranch. Seems like the Hill Country is a buffet for the snakes this year.

When all's said and done, it doesn't bother me too much to have found rattlesnakes on the property. We've been fortunate to have avoided them for this long. It does mean taking a few more precautions before doing certain kinds of work, however, but that's manageable. As the area settles in for the Long Hot season, the mouse population will start dwindling, which should do the same for the snake population as well.



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