Sandy Peebles was heading out her back door to pick some basil from her yard Tuesday when she noticed something unusual.
Her favorite squirrel was lying on the ground, dead.
The resident of Northeast Columbia knew it was her favorite, because it was the one she always had to playfully yell at to keep out of her bird feeder, which is what it was lying next to.
Then she noticed her cat was beside the squirrel, but it was not interested in the dead animal. Peebles’ cat was focused on a bush, that she saw move.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
That was when Peebles realized there was a snake in her backyard, and that is what killed the squirrel. But not just any snake, it was a rattlesnake.
After getting over her initial shock, Peebles said she quickly grabbed her cat and took it inside the house. But not before the snake slithered in her direction.
“It literally came very close to where I was standing,” Peebles told The State Wednesday. “Then it headed off in his own direction.”
Using caution, Peebles returned to her yard, armed with her phone — not a hoe or shovel. She wanted to get a video of the timber rattlesnake and had no intention of killing or harming it in any way.
She captured footage of the snake, that looks to be between 3-4 feet long, as it slithered away, and under her neighbor’s porch.
That created a new dilemma for Peebles, who immediately recognized this was a venomous snake that could pose a threat to animals and people, especially in a residential neighborhood.
Peebles went to her neighbor’s house and told them what was lurking. She also shared the video she got on the Soda City Connectors Facebook group, to let a wider audience know about the snake.
“I just found a huge rattlesnake in my yard,” was the message Peebles shared on the post. Along with a plea.
She wanted someone to come retrieve the snake — “quickly.” But again, to remove the rattlesnake to ensure the safety of the neighborhood residents and the serpent.
“I don’t want to hurt anything,” said Peebles, who added she is a vegetarian. “I don’t care for snakes, but I’m not petrified of them.”
An animal control expert was called and attempted to capture the snake to safely relocate it. But the effort failed when the area under the neighbor’s home where the snake retreated was deemed too small for a person to fit in and he could not otherwise find the snake.
“It went off its merry way,” Peebles said. “I’m putting it in the back of my mind. That’s the only way I can go outside again and get my basil.”
Peebles said the professional did help ease her conscience by saying that the snake was the one who was scared, and that’s why it left.
That said, it took her a while to let her cat go back outside. But she did, eventually.
She also moved her bird feeder further away from the bush, to create a wider berth for any other creatures in the yard.
“I’ll be cautious,” said Peebles, who admits she wears tall rain boots when she goes into her yard since another encounter with a non-venomous snake earlier this year.
That snake went into her garage, but like the rattlesnake, eventually left without incident.
While Peebles was shocked by the sight of a big rattlesnake in her yard, she said she was also surprised by how much reaction her Facebook post received.
Both the volume of responses, and the nature of some of them, caught Peebles off guard.
“There are some mean people out there,” she said, pointing out that so many people recommended killing the snake, and argued over the issue.
“I guess snakes freak people out,” said Peebles, who hopes that more people will educate themselves about snakes before reacting, or overreacting.