Snakes and Wildlife of Maryland

Frequently asked snake questions

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

Questions! Questions and more Questions! Seems I have been hit with quite a lot of you seeking information about all the living things that have come out this spring.

Most of all snakes. Snake in my backyard, snake in my living room, on my porch, in my attic, on my dresser, and I seen a snake while hiking -- it had to be poisonous because it was about 12 foot long with big teeth.

My email has been packed with questions, so I will explain to the best of my ability about what is happening and why we are seeing snakes and all types of living things.

For one thing, it is spring and all living things are coming to life. Yes, we have had extremely weird weather, but for some reason nature seems to adapt and they do it very well.

As for snakes in the house, the most common snake is the black rat snake, which is a constrictor and that means they are excellent climbers and they constrict their prey. No, they are not dangerous. They are egg layers and they will not lay eggs in your attic or ceiling. About 110% of the time when I encounter skins in an attic it is from the black rat snake.

Most snakes are seeking food so perhaps you have a rodent issue -- mice, rats and birds are main food sources for the black rat snake. Most times that is why the snake has found its way into your home. They get in but most times cannot get out -- that is why the trapper is called.

In the basement you have a snake. Perhaps it is a garter snake or northern ring snake. These snakes like dampness. Their main food source is bugs such as crickets, worms and spiders. They may have entered through a drain or sump pump. These snakes are harmless. But if you are not skilled with snakes, it is best to call a trapper or your local animal control for assistance.

As for the hiker who saw the snake with big teeth, this is a question I cannot answer unless you were hiking in the Amazon, because we do not have 12-foot snakes native to our area with large teeth.

But please, if you see the snake again, send me a picture. Sometimes people will let large pet snakes go, such as Burmese pythons and boa constrictors, which can be very dangerous. Please do not do this -- these snakes are not native to the United States and cannot adapt and will perish. Also, it can be dangerous for someone who comes upon them.

Until next time, get out an enjoy our Maryland nature.

Tammy McCormack is a licensed Maryland snake trapper and writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com. Her email is snaketrapping@aol.com

Crazy snake month

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

What a crazy month! The year of the snake has begun for 2011. I cannot believe the calls I have received pertaining to snake issues in the dead of this cold snowy winter. Of course I am dealing with snakes inside and not outside.

This past week has been truly crazy. I was called to a house in Silver Spring a large Black Rat Snake, which is native to Maryland, was seen sticking its head out of the basement ceiling and, of course, the client said it was hissing at them.

Of course, when I arrive no snake is found. Truly, no evidence of a snake at all. Humane traps were set. Yesterday, my client was so scared because they just knew the snake was caught during the major snow. Well, here we are, 50 minutes away, but no matter the weather. I manage to always get someone there. My son James, who helps me at times, arrived during the snowy bad weather and guess what he found? No snake. No snake evidence anywhere.

The reason for this column this week is to talk about true fears. Dealing with snakes is my calling and you must have patience and understanding with clients. The snake is so misunderstood, along with spiders, bugs, etc. People have a true fear of these gorgeous living creatures. Fear of snakes is called Ophidiophobia. People start to panic and have a hard time breathing when a snake is in their home and you make great effort to locate the snake or trap it but circumstances can work against you and it can be challenging.

So being patient and understanding as a trapper has truly helped me be a more successful trapper, and deal with situations even if the snake is not found or caught. I have had clients have to breathe in and out of paper bags, break out in a bad sweat with a rash, leave and go to a hotel or to stay with family or friends or even want to put their house up for sale.

But no matter the situation, the snake is still feared. Most people will kill these gentle reptiles because of fear or lack of knowledge. To them a snake is a most dangerous creature. So if you ever have a situation similar to the one mentioned, listen to your trapper. They are there not only to help you but the snake, too. The snake is important and vital to natures balance, so please do not kill or harm it. Call your local animal control or a trapper skilled in this area to remove the snake or help prevent future issues.

Don't panic and sell your home. I am not a professional doctor or psychiatrist but it is a known fact this fear exists. Well, until next time stay warm and as always, contact me at snaketrapping@aol.com if I can answer your questions or help in anyway.

Tammy McCormack is a licensed professional snake trapper. She writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com to help readers understand about Marylands snakes and wildlife.

A Tribute to our Wildlife Conservation Officers

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

My heart just went numb when I heard the news about the conservation officer who was shot and killed in Gettysburg, PA, this past week. That is why I wanted to dedicate this week's column to not only our local conservation officers but to all officers who serve and protect native wildlife, farm animals, domestic animals and humans.

In my field as a trapper, I have encountered all types of wildlife. Yes, snakes are my preference, but I have years of experience as a Wildlife Trapper as well.

I have had the priviledge of working with wildlife officers in Michigan and Maryland, and they do not have an easy job. They choose to do this because, for most of them, it is a calling to help animals and people. They train very hard and deserve respect for the job they do.

Why that man was out spotlight hunting in the late night, we may never know. But it truly is a very foolish thing to do. There are laws that must be followed and the officers that enforce these laws do not deserve to be shot, spit on, hit or threatened in any way.

You, as a citizen, should know this also. Illegal hunting is happening more and more and there is not enough officers to cover large territories.

I fully support deer hunting but people need to follow the law and respect the hunt. If you are questioned by an officer, don't get smart. Just answer their questions and get on with what you should be doing. And don't blame the officer for issuing you a ticket. Blame yourself since they are only doing their job.

I have high respect for the officers since I have been trained by some of the best. I've been taught trapping methods such as tracking, how to use a tranquilizer gun, proper netting procedures and safe and humane trapping and removal.

I was also saddened to hear about the passing of FNP photographer Skip Lawrence. He came to my home two years ago to take pictures for a story they were doing about my work with snakes. It is true he loved animals. He took several photos of my snakes that day. Felt like a photo shoot for Snake Vogue Magazine but without the fancy clothes. Thanks Skip. I will never forget that day. So, to his family and to the family of the Conservation Officer, my condolences.

Well, until next time.......please email me at snaketrapping@aol.com should you have any wildlife or snake questions I can help you with.

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper and writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

So you want to be a Wildlife Trapper?

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

So you want to be a Wildlife Trapper?

I could not believe all the emails I have received lately asking me "How do I go about getting into this profession?" So I thought I would try to help if I can.

I truly enjoy what I do. It may be tiring, but it's always exciting. The standard I live by is "I do not work for the people, only the snakes."

You need to be very dependable, honest, fully able to cope with the public, patient, strongly skilled in the animals you have decided to trap, tolerable of any weather and, most importantly, believe, in your heart, that you're a trapper. It doesn't require a lot of education or fancy degrees. It mainly requires common sense and not taking on more than you can handle.

So here are my suggestions.

First, check with your local Department of Natural Resources to see what the requirements are to obtain a permit. Remember, every state is different. They have different laws. Some may require you to take a test, or have a degree or work a certain amount of hours with a trapper so they are assured you have the skills it takes.

Contact a local trapping company or trapper. They may be willing to answer questions you have or would allow you to ride along, do an internship, etc., to gain more knowledge.

Make sure this truly what I want to do. Ask yourself if you'll have the patience? Take the groundhog, for example. This animal can stress highly in a trap and what happens when a day is supposed to reach 100 degrees? Are you willing to set the trap in the early evening and return early morning to safely release the animal in an area that you must have permission? Or would you leave the animal exposed in the trap all day, possibly costing the animal its life by the time you return? Are you a humane trapper or inhumane?

And, are you able to consider risking your own well-being for the job by crawling under houses in crawl spaces, climb into attics on a 100 degree day or a roof to inspect the problem?

Are you going to offer to make repairs to the damage from the nuisance wildlife? Are you a skilled person in this area?

Have you determined if you are prepared to get your LLC/small business license, which could mean different taxes to deal with? Will you be working with all wildlife or just specific wildlife? You may need a special permit for endangered species which you do in Maryland. These are just a few things that you need to think about. In no way is this professional advice.

Decide what you specifically want to trap. I have extensive experience in Wildlife Trapping but I only deal with snakes. Say you only want to deal with snakes. Are you aware how many snakes are native to Maryland or in your own state? Are you willing to deal with poisonous snakes?

Or maybe you only want to trap bats and groundhogs. You must contact DNR first, since there are special rules that apply to bats. Just going out buying traps, baits and repellents is not enough. You must have strong knowledge in what you are doing. No living creature deserves to die or suffer due to an unnecessary mistake.

Take your time in making this decision it can be a very exciting career but it can also be a very hard career. If you love wildlife and animals, do your research and be dedicated with a kind heart and you can make an excellent trapper.

I wish you luck and please keep the emails coming. I look forward to hearing from you no matter the topic. My e-mail is snaketrapping@aol.com, and, until next week, stay warm.

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper and writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Spiders and Snakes! Oh My!

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

Halloween time has approached rapidly, and I can't believe how time has just gone by this year.

Snake season had it's busy and slow days but I truly look forward to the winter when things slow down. November to March is what I call hibernation time for myself. No more 100 degree days of being in attics and crawl spaces. It is a welcome time, just to slow down, enjoy the holidays and relax.

Speaking of holidays, this weekend is Halloween and I wanted to write about our gorgeous friends, snakes and spiders. Of course, I am talking about domestic pets just like cats and dogs. Many people have snakes and spiders as pets also. When it comes to spiders, it is mainly tarantulas, although many people are afraid of these truly majestic creatures. It seems when Halloween comes around, they face danger from the same types of people who want a black cat. This occurs for many reasons.

When I lived in Michigan, I found that many humane societies do not allow the adoptions of black cats and snakes in their care. Some pet stores will not sell black kittens, snakes or tarantulas until after Halloween. There are so many horror stories, and, when writing about them, I have to choose my words very carefully. But, there are some people who just want to do harm to these animals or simply let them go after a night of partying and enjoying Halloween.

Some black cats, according to an article on KCBD.com, are even used as a sacrifice in some sort of devil or witchcraft worship. There are many people who practice this type of religion but would never bring harm upon any living thing. But than there are others who will do harm to these animals.

So, please, make sure, if you are trying to find a home for your spider or snake, you use caution when choosing the person you place your pet with. Many people have raised their snake or spider from a baby and than a terrible fate awaits them at this time of year. Do your research as there are alot of horror stories out there about this topic.

I have seen many bad things in my field at this time of year. One of the saddest was when I was called to an apartment complex and the people there had harmed a small ball python. The snake was wedged inside a car door. I had to euthanise the snake, and, well, let me say she was not a whole snake after that.

Another time someone had a gorgeous, rose hair tarantula and apparently thought that by removing the legs one by one, it produced a special power. Why people do these things is beyond anything I can comprehend. So please be very careful if you are looking to give away your pet, and perhaps you just wait until after Halloween.

Remember, don't hesitate to email me at thesnaketrapper.com if I can answer your questions about our native wildlife and snakes. Have a safe Halloween.

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper and writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

The Northern Ring-neck snake

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

Wow! We're already into October as the months have just flown by.

Wildlife and Snake season has slowed down, but one snake that keeps me very busy during the month of October is a little snake known as the Northern Ring-neck. When clients are referred to me regarding these snakes, the first thing they say is that they thought they had a worm in their basement, but, no, it was a snake. Not just one but several, and that's because these little snakes are born between September and October.

The Ring-neck snake is a small, slender snake. They are olive, brownish, or black in color. They have an orange, cream, red, or bright yellow circle around their neck. These litttle snakes mate in Spring and Fall and lay clutches of about ten enlongated white or yellowish eggs around June to July. Young hatch in about eight weeks and are about four to six inches long when born. These also have a red underbelly.

Like all snakes, Ring-neck snakes are very secretive. When it comes to places around the home where they can be found, these snakes are often in the basement, near sump pumps, drains or small cracks they can enter around the foundation. They prefer a lot of moisture and dampnesss. Their diet consists of earthworms, slugs, small salamanders, lizards and newborn snakes.

In the wild, away from suburban areas, they prefer flat rocks, logs, loose bark off dead trees and small log piles. Food is abundant in these areas more so than around the home.

Ring-neck snakes, when threatened, coil in a tight position and display their red underbelly. They also put out a very foul musk scent from the cloaca, which is their anal area. This is not a pleasant smell as it truly stinks. So try to avoid picking these snakes up.

As always, thank you for reading and you may contact me at snaketrapping@aol.com if I can ever answer or help with any of your snake and wildlife questions.

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper and writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Animal Answers

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

Can you believe it! Fall is already here. I've been extremely busy with snakes and wildlife issues. However, never too busy to answer questions that were sent to me via email pertaining to snake and wildlife problems. So I will do my best.

1. Vera wrote - Tammy how do I rid my property of moles and voles?

Vera - these small rodents can wreck havoc on your lawn. They cause quite a lot of damage and can even draw snakes. A mole stays completely underground and never emerges. Voles are similar to moles but they can come above ground out of small borrows they have dug. My suggestion is that there are various products that can rid your property of these pesky rodents. You should go to your local hardware store and they will suggest a product that would be best for you.

2. Tanya wrote - Tammy help! Found 2 large snake skins in my attic when the AC was being installed. Am I in danger?

No, Tanya, you are not in danger. The only snake in Frederick County that can climb that high and into an attic is our native black rat snake. They are constrictors and excellent climbers. The rat snake is not a poisonous snake. Perhaps, it was seeking shelter or food. So, I suggest if you have a mouse problem in the attic, you call an exterminator as they are experts in rodent problems and will be able to answer a lot of your rodent questions. As for the snakes, you are welcome to e-mail me and I will see what I can do.

3. James wrote - Help! Help! I have a large groundhog who has taken up residence under my front porch.

Well, James, groundhogs can be a strong nuisance but they are very easy to trap and relocate. There is no need to kill or harm them. Basically, any large live trap can be found at your local hardware store. You place apples baited with sugar and your friend will go right for it. You never leave any type of animal in a trap for hours, as it is stressful and they will die. As soon as the animal is trapped, you can relocate him or her away from your home.

4. Crystal wrote - Why do you choose to work with snakes? I have such a fear and I don't understand why you do what you do.

Well, Crystal, in school you study all animals. But snakes happen to be my favorite. They are mysterious but highly intelligent and we truly need them to help balance out nature. I do what I do because it is my calling just like maybe your calling is being a nurse to help people. Everyone and everything has a purpose on this earth and I enjoy snake conservation and education. So as long as I am capable, I will continue this.

I have had so many emails and I am sorry I cannot address them all but I will do my best over the next few weeks. Thank you all for being so interested in our snakes and wildlife of Maryland.

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper and writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Common snake myths what a snake cannot do!

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

In my line of work as a snake trapper I have been asked some pretty off-the-wall questions.

Of course, I get ones like this: What in the world inspired you to do this type of work? Or is there something wrong with you mentally for wanting to trap and help snakes?

But there have been a lot of myths about snakes that people seem to really believe. Even when I try telling them that what they hear or read is impossible or not true it can turn into a very strong debate. So most times I let them believe what they want. People are happy with my services so that is all that matters.

I thought I would list some of the common snake myths that I have encountered with my everyday work.

Myth 1 - Snakes will bite the end of its tail and form a hoop so they can roll away when scared.

Not true. A snake can bite its tail, but they are not anatomically proportioned to form the shape of a hoop and roll.

Myth 2 - A mother snake will swallow her young if there is a predator near or any type of danger is present. She will than spit them out later when it is safe.

Not true. A female snake, no matter if she lays eggs or gives live birth, will never stay around to protect her young. Yes, you will see a female rattlesnake stay by her young after giving birth for a couple of days but that is because she is exhausted. Also, if she swallowed her young they would die so that is just not possible.

Myth 3 (or Snake Fact) - Snakes will chase after you.

There have been stories about snakes chasing after a person not only in the United States but in other countries. The fact is, a male snake may chase after you if it is mating season and he feels threatened or defending his territory. You may have six to eight males competing for one female. But this can vary depending on the snake species. But generally speaking a snake just does not decide to chase you out of the blue.

Myth 4 - Snakes drink milk. That is how the milk snake got it's name.

Not true. Snakes do not drink milk. They are not mammals. Milk snakes received their name because they hang around a barn perhaps where there are dairy cows, but only because of mice.

Myth 5 - Black rat snakes and copperheads can breed.

Not true. Black rat snakes are egg layers and the copperhead gives live birth. This is anatomically impossible.

Hope this answers some of your questions and perhaps satisfies your curiosity. As always if you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to email me at snaketrapping@aol.com. I am always happy to help.

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper and writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

How to choose a trapper

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

It has truly been a hot summer. This makes wildlife and snake trapping work a little more difficult because because snakes and wildlife are not going to be in hot attics, stuffy buildings or around most homes. Instead, they prefer the cool of the night and will remain at a distance.

This column is to help assist you in choosing the best trapper for your wildlife or snake problem.

First start with your local animal control or Department of Natural Resources. Ask them if they can refer you to someone who specializes in wildlife or snake trapping.

Check your local Yellow Pages under pest control. Most exterminating companies do not handle wildlife or snakes.

Our modern Internet technology is always the best way to search for and experienced trapper.

Once you decide to contact a trapper, my suggestion is to contact not just one, but two or three. If you have to leave a message and no one returns your call within 20 to 30 minutes then move on to the next. A good trapper will always return your call right away no matter the situation.

If it is an emergency call, ask if they provide immediate response. A good trapper will either be able to make the call within a two- to three-hour timeframe. If not, ask if they know of someone else or continue on with your search.

If you have a general question that you need answered and do not necessarily need the presence of a trapper only to find that trapper seems like he or she does not have the time to help then it is best to move on to another. If you would like to schedule an appointment for trapping services it is very important to ask the following questions:

For instance if you have a raccoon in the attic that has done extensive damage does the trapper not only set traps and offer humane removal but do they provide clean-up services from feces and waste. Do they offer entry repairs?

If you have a snake problem ask the trapper the same questions as above, but also know that snakes are a lot different than your basic wildlife. Ask the trapper if they handle all types of snakes and what can they tell you about what type of snake problem you have from skin or feces? What trapping methods do they use? What can you do to prevent future problems? Do they offer a full inspection and can they tell you where the snake problem is outside or inside? Can they crawl in the attic and basement crawl spaces? These are very important because a trapper should be in good physical shape even on a 100-degree day.

If you have a snake, ask the trapper if they remove the snake or do they harm it or release it.

Ask the trapper to provide references for previous work done. Always get everything in writing and a written receipt.

Basically, there are wonderful trappers out there and, believe me, they may trap everything but deep down they always have a favorite or skills that are stronger than another trapper. Make sure they are a people person. But most importantly, the trapper should be a skilled animal person in this line of work.

Well, good luck with your search if you have a nuisance wildlife or snake issue!

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper. She writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com. She can be reached at snaketrapping@aol.com.

Want a pet snake? Read this first …

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

I'm writing this column with the hope that it will help educate you if you ever think about owning a pet snake. I will also touch on the fact that it is illegal to have some native wildlife as pets.

In my line of work I have seen everything. I have seen pet snakes, lizards and turtles who have wonderful owners and are extremely well care of.

I have also seen neglect and abuse of these reptiles. On the side, I have been called to see if I could take in a sick and neglected reptile and, of course, I have. It's disgusting the way people have treated these beautiful creatures. Some people have not provided food so they almost starve to death and by not keeping their living area clean so the pets become prone to infections.

Yes, my friends reptiles can get very ill also, just like our domestic dogs and cats.

Snakes can develop mouth rot which, when not treated, can be very painful because they become unable to eat. Snakes can also have a mite problem that stems from not keeping the cage clean; sometimes this happens to good owners based on where they obtain the food to feed their snake.

A mite is only contagious to other snakes. It can affect their skin and, since snakes have no legs, they have no way to scratch the itch.

Snakes can also get respiratory infections which makes them not be able to breathe right, and can interfere with their eating.

Mainly, the pet snakes that have come to me have been sick. I have to take the snake to a vet specialist who takes care of reptiles. It costs money, which comes out of my own pocket because I care and want the snakes to recover and to hopefully find a wonderful home. I have been very lucky that out of the 30 to 40 sick snakes I've rescued, I have only lost one.

The sad story about Rose, a 6-foot red-tail boa, is she was just something the previous owners stored in a garage like an old tire. Of course they lived on a gorgeous horse farm and had a very large home. But they could not even care for this snake like they cared for their beautiful horses. Rose had severe mouth rot, she lost one eye, and her skin was infested with mites and infection.

When I saw the condition this snake was in I became very angry but I took her even knowing I could not save her, so at least she died peacefully in a clean tank, with clean water and proper heat.

Rose lived for only two days when I got her home and before I could take her to the vet. So, please, if you are going to own a pet snake or are considering owning a pet snake please do your research and understand it is a living, breathing creature with feelings that does feel pain if not properly taken care of.

Do not even think twice if you see a little baby fox, raccoon, opossum or baby deer and try to bring it home and raise it as a pet. It is highly illegal to have these animals in Maryland. You could receive a large fine and do extreme harm to the animal.

If the animal is injured they need to be taken to a licensed wildlife rehabber. That is why you call your local animal control or Department of Natural Resources to handle this situation. If you have any questions please post them in the comment section and I will to the best of my ability answer your questions.

Until next time ...

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper. She writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.