SoonToBecomeSnake

Okay Melissa, here’s the mouse story:

I used to keep a gopher snake for school programs. Snakes need to eat, and gopher snakes are constrictors that specialize on small mammals. As a herpetologist I understand this, and in any conversation about the basics of snake biology I will always vote against the my fellow warm fuzzy mammal and go to bat for the snake. Always.

My gopher snake was hungry, so I went to the local pet store and told them I needed a mouse. “A feeder mouse?” the young woman asked. “Yep, a feeder mouse.” She reached into a musky smelling vat of white and brown mice, gently lifted a white female out by the tail, and asked me if this one would do. Of course; one feeder mouse is the same as any other feeder mouse to the snake that would be feeding on it. She lowered the mouse into a small brown paper bag and stapled the top shut. Back then I was dirt poor and this little bundle of soontobecomesnake had cost me a buck and a half. But it wasn't a huge deal because snakes don't need to eat that often. Back at the car, I put the bag of mouse on the back seat floor, ran some other errands, drove home, and unloaded.

But I forgot to unload the mouse. When I remembered the next morning and went out to retrieve it, I found what you might expect: she had not been intimidated by the brown paper bag and had chewed her way out. Now my cute little bundle of soontobecomesnake was on the lam, I was out a buck and a half, and the snake was still hungry.

That afternoon I was driving the car south on Hilyard when the mouse appeared from beneath the front seat. She crawled up my right leg, into my lap, then up onto my shoulder. My inclination was to do horrible things to that damned mouse. But I was driving a couple of tons of Volvo that would have become a killing machine had I let go of the wheel to grab her. She perched there for several blocks, apparently enjoying the view and her freedom. Then she crawled down the way she had come, disappearing back under the front seat.

We kept a small live trap around the house for such instances. We had not-so-live traps, too. But my gopher snake liked live food, so I baited the little aluminum box with some sunflower seeds, set the gate, and placed it on the front floor of the car. The next morning, soontobecomesnake’s freewheeling days were over. Leaving the mouse locked inside the trap, I took her into the house. I began to open the trap over the snake’s terrarium. I stopped.

Three years later soontobecomesnake, by then decrepit and nearly hairless, died of old age.