Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Readers Write In: I Caught A Snake in a Glue Trap, How to Remove it?

Mr. Steen,

My sister sent me these pictures today.  Thought I would share them with you for two reasons, mainly if you would like to use them in your education (I plan to use them in my Biology Class) of the potential dangers of sticky traps.   Also, because even though this is a sickening event, I am curious about the species.

I personally see no harm in using traps (of the quickest kill method) for rodents when they pose a problem, but I can't stand these sticky traps.  They were once used at the school I teach at until a dear sweet janitor brought me (the animal loving biology teacher) a house mouse that was stuck to one.  After I showed him how the little guy would starve to death, I was able to pull him off with only a small patch of skin removed near one foot.  I took him to the woods behind the school and hoped for the best for him.  Anyway… off that soapbox..

My sister and her family found this snake near their hotel in the Oklahoma City area.  You can see from the baggy skin that he must have been there a while.  At first they thought he was dead until he started to struggle.  They tried to get him free, but it was impossible.  My brother-in-law put him out of his misery with a sharp knife.  They are in the process of being moved to Korea and have no household things, otherwise I'm sure she would have tried to use oil or something to get him off.  But I don't even know if that would have worked, so much of him was stuck and he was in such a bad state.  We all come from a family of snake lovers so this was not an easy decision.

Anyway, please feel free to use this in anyway you would like.  As for the species, is this a Texas Rat snake?

Thanks for all you do in your patient education.  Keep it up!

Elizabeth H.
Montgomery, Alabama

Glue traps are nasty, nasty things. Animals get stuck to the glue and slowly die of thirst, hunger, exhaustion, or a combination of all three. For reptiles, which have relatively slow metabolisms, it can take much longer to die, like weeks. If you just have to use traps to get rid of an animal in or near your house, use the kind that kills the animal right away-not glue traps. But better yet, change the conditions that caused the animal to move in with you in the first place.

There is good news. Despite how desperate and hopeless a situation may appear when you encounter an animal stuck in a glue trap, it's actually pretty straightforward to help. A little cooking oil or cooking spray will free it. Several years ago I encountered another Ratsnake (yes, the animal above is a Texas Ratsnake) that was stuck on a glue trap. Like the situation described above, things did not look good but I was amazed at how well a little oil worked. In seconds, the snake was free and loving life. We all shared in the relief and the snake was safely released.

The snake pictured above probably could have been safely released too. The loose skin isn't necessarily an indication that the animal had been starving. Rather, snakes always have a lot of loose skin, that's what allows them to swallow large prey and keep it inside of their bellies. What we're seeing in this picture is that the normally loose skin has just gotten caught up in the glue.

Don't use too much oil and gradually work the animal off the glue trap. It's also good to clean the animal off afterwards so it can crawl off into the woods rather than slide into it. The Humane Society has some detailed information about glue traps and what to do when you encounter an animal in one, so I'll refer the reader there for more. But keep in mind that handling venomous snakes or even small mammals is not advisable, both can deliver a dangerous bite. 

I'm hoping none of you are buying glue traps. But, the take-home message is that if you come across an an animal in a glue trap it doesn't necessarily mean the animal is doomed. With a little handling and a little oil, there's a good change the animal will soon be on its way. 

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