Snake in Aviary

High drama in the aviary for the past two days. On Monday evening, when I walked into the shed which is attached to the house and where a fenced-off area serves as a small aviary for our three parrots, I was welcomed by a large snake crawling on the ground, just a metre or so away from my feet! I rushed to get my snake tong, but by the time I returned to the shed I could only watch the snake’s tail rapidly disappearing in a corner of the aviary, in a narrow opening. The shed is supported by several U-shaped metal bars which have their open sides laid against the walls, thus providing a hollow shaft for the animal to hide in. I found it incredible that a large snake would be able to crawl into and around a tube whose diameter is barely eight centimetres, but there you have it.

Big-eyed ratsnake (Ptyas dhumnades)

I saw the snake again yesterday. The crossbar is not laid down perfectly in places and I was able to spot the reptile’s skin in a narrow gap that separated one of the horizontal booms from the wall (see pictures above and below), roughly at my eye level. I tried to make the snake move by poking it with a metal rod, then by attacking it with a high-pressure water gun. It did move and at one stage I managed to grab its tail with my snake tong and started pulling it out. But as I discovered, this was a very powerful animal and it didn’t take long before the tail simply snapped off! So all I have to show for my effort yesterday is a 2 cm piece of a snake tail!

Big-eyed ratsnake (Ptyas dhumnades)

Of course, all this action just frightened the hell out of the snake which then tried to find a better hiding place. The last time I saw it was when it “reversed” into a vertical boom where it could very well still be now. I don’t think it will dare to venture out any time soon, believing (falsely) that its life is at stake. Two years ago, when I had another snake in the aviary, it spent four days in hiding before it finally showed up again! It was a cobra, a much smaller snake.

The trouble is that without help the snake won’t find a way out. The shed isn’t sealed off by any means, but I would imagine it isn’t a simple matter for any snake to find a way in. However, once inside, it gets that much harder to get out again, especially for one this large. Of course, its presence in the aviary stresses out the birds, so I really need to catch it and remove it, otherwise it will become a permanent settler. Mind you, there is certainly enough to eat there – I saw a big rat a few days ago and there are also geckos and lizards. As for the birds, I keep the lights on all night so that they can see if something is crawling around and take evasive action. These parrots have excellent vision and fast reactions, so I doubt the snake will be a big threat to them, but one can never be sure.

A snake-expert friend of mine was able to identify the reptile as “Big-eyed ratsnake”, also known as “Keel-backed ratsnake” (Ptyas dhumnades). According to the above link, this is the fastest snake in Asia, very common in Taiwan and parts of China. It is fairly large, reaching up to 2.2 metres.

It’s a beautiful animal. I don’t mean to hurt it, just want to remove it from the aviary, take a few pictures and release it somewhere in the nearby fields where it can do a great job helping farmers keep the rat population to manageable levels. But I suspect it won’t be easy…

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