The first time you get kicked by a jackass, it’s his fault. If he kicks you again, it’s your fault. And if you get kicked a third time, you’re just plain stupid. Or so the old saying goes. The same is true for a snake-bitten dog, and is applicable to Molly, my Doberman. My little mini-pincher, Susie, is a snake detector. Upon detecting the presence of a snake, she stands back and begins barking incessantly. Her barking attracts Molly, who assumes an attack mode, resulting in her being bitten by the snake. If the snake is a non-venomous yellow-bellied water snake, a species that often shows up well away from my pond, in the yard, in most instances neither the snake nor Molly is harmed.
But the snakes showing up around my house recently have been venomous copperheads. Copperheads discharge a foul-smelling unmistakable substance from their anal glands when confronted by an enemy. Last fall, Susie located a copperhead and barked, alerting Molly. Molly attacked and was bitten on the snout. This spring, Susie located another copperhead, and Molly was bitten for a second time. The first encounter should have taught her to keep a safe distance from a copperhead to avoid being bitten. Surely, I thought, after the second painful encounter, she would have learned a lesson. I was too optimistic.
Last Saturday night, about eleven o’clock, Susie began barking. I arose from my bed, got a flashlight, and, accompanied by Molly, went outside to see what she was barking at. (Gillis Morgan may chastise me for ending a sentence with a preposition.) I hoped it would be a ‘possum or an armadillo, but to my dismay, it wasn’t either of those, it was a smallish copperhead, lying underneath a fig tree next to my carport. Using a potato rake I tried to capture the snake, which began crawling away. Molly attempted to catch it too, but it eluded both of us by crawling under a pallet beneath the deck.
I got both dogs into the house, and until I saw Molly’s swollen up jowls the following morning, I was unaware that she’d been bitten. Molly was behaving normally, eating, drinking, and doing all the other things she usually does each morning. I watched her carefully, and if I had detected any abnormal behavior, I would have taken her to the AU Small Animal Clinic, which would have depleted my bank account.
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In a recent column, I mentioned the Chinese Zodiac that designates 2013 as “The Year of the Snake.” The year 2012 is “The Year of the Dragon.” I suggested that if our area had an animal-related zodiac, 2012 should be called “The Year of the Yellowjacket,” but I’ve change my mind. It should be designated “The Year of the Copperhead.”
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NASA reports that the past 12 months have been the warmest ever recorded for the mainland U.S. The period January through June was also the warmest ever recorded for a comparable period.
The National Climatic Data Center reports that the record-breaking drought conditions are causing widespread devastation to agricultural crops and livestock. Jack Crouch, a scientist with the center, states, “What’s going on for 2012 is exactly what we would expect from climate change.”
USDA has declared almost 1,300 counties in 29 states as disaster areas. Thirty three of Alabama’s 67 counties, including Lee, Chambers, Russell, Macon, Tallapoosa, and Elmore counties are among them.
Wildfires in Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona have destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland in those states, and in Colorado, 350 homes were destroyed. To make matters worse for western forests, infestations of mountain pine beetles and spruce beetles are becoming epidemic, which foresters blame on abnormally warm winters and drought.
Companies along the Mississippi River are seeing drastic cuts in their businesses as severe drought lowers the river’s water levels, making shipping increasingly difficult. Near Vicksburg, the depth of the river is already less than five feet deep.
Not long ago, people warning about global warming and climate change were conservationists (a.k.a. environmental extremists, tree huggers, earth worshippers, Chicken Littles, etc.) Their warnings were met with derision by industry moguls, pro-growth advocates, and even by some agricultural and forest industry spokesmen. But, I suspect, “the times they are a-changin’.” (With apologies to Bob Dylan.)
The deniers are starting to realize that global warming is occurring and beginning to adversely affect their ‘bottom lines.’ They may even come to regard Al Gore as a visionary rather than a pariah.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn Univ. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.