We've cleared or underbrushed about three acres around our house as a deterrent to the snakes. I've taken a somewhat cavalier attitude about this, since we've only seen one snake in that space and it was a rat snake, which was huge, but they're not a threat. The parameters of that comfort zone just diminished a lot when Rene had a confrontation with a yellow-jaw. Rene has worked in the bush for most of his life and has killed about 50 of these snakes, but the closeness of this call truly upset him.
In the early part of the morning Rene was using a new machete down a row that had been cleared for mahogany's. The new machete made a ringing sound as it hit. We're assuming that this sound attracted the snake as it struck the machete as Rene swung to cut vines. There's a mark on the blade about 8" from the handle where the fangs struck. Thankfully Rene is familiar with their habits, so he threw the machete to detract the snake. The yellow-jaw doesn't usually chase you and this one remained in place. Rene then grabbed a large stick that he'd just cut and used it to kill the snake. He came to the house to get some water as he was shaken and then went back and brought it up to the house to show us. Wow! A couple of years ago he'd shown us a small snake, but this one seemed huge. It was a male, about 5' long and as big around as my arm. Ick, ick, ick! I'm not one to go running and screaming, but this guy gave me the chills. It wasn't so much the looks of the snake, but the fact that I'd just walked Bailey down those paths the day before, really gave me the creeps. I'm usually busy talking to Bailey and daydreaming. I do carry a small knife and walk with a good diamond willow stick, but I'm not nearly cautious enough. The thing that really creeped me out was that the snake that we tho't was dead, moved. Yuck! Rene, bless his heart, killed the snake and then burned it to keep anything from coming in contact with the venom.
I've learned a lot about the habits of these snakes from Rene, but anyone can be bitten. He identified this snake as a male because the tail was short. The female tail is long and whiplike. He also told us that if you see one coiled, you follow the direction of the head and the other will be about 25' away on that line. He looked for the second snake, but didn't find it. A lot of our neighbors are clearing lots and lines so we suspect that this snake was moving. Whatever, I'm not going to wander into the bush, but will stay to the road and our open, cleared areas. Bailey isn't a help either because he's a hunter and has a nose to the ground, trailing anything and everything. If he ran loose he'd probably be dead the first day as he isn't afraid of anything and doesn't know the ways of the bush.
These confrontations are wake-up calls to all of us that there are dangers in the bush, but if you're vigilant there's fantastic beauty too.