What can you do if you’ve found a rat snake in your yard, a prairie king in your garden, a cotton mouth in your garage or even a rattlesnake in your attic? Miracle Bennett of Lancaster, Texas says you don’t need to harm it – she’ll catch it and take it somewhere far away.
Forming an all-in-the-family snake relocation group called Save Our Snakes in a region-wide snake relocation directory with her husband Jack and her son Alex, Miracle is spreading the message that snakes are such an important part of our local ecosystem that they simply should not be killed. And to help anyone who’s found a snake where it’s unwanted, she and her family will catch the trespassing snake and relocate it without harm and at no charge.
“I’ve been a snake person my entire life, but just a few years ago I got very, very tired of seeing people bragging about killing snakes and spreading a lot of snake misinformation around. And I said, you know what, maybe if I just offer to go and get it, they won’t kill it,” Miracle says about why she started the snake relocation service.
Miracle says she and her family will travel throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area and surrounding communities to save a snake from a scared property owner. She’s responded to calls in an area that spans from Dallas to Waco and from Weatherford to Rockwall. Ellis County has shown a high demand for the family’s snake relocation services, and the bulk of the calls for assistance come from Waxahachie, Ovilla, Red Oak, Midlothian and Ennis.
Those who call for snake relocation range from the elderly to rugged, outdoorsy types.
“We get calls from every walk of life. We get calls from 90-year-old grandmothers and 20-year-old males who found a rat snake in their closet because it came through a broken window pane,” she says. “We had one where the racer had taken up residence in the lid of the septic tank and the septic guy went screaming across the yard.”
On a recent late-summer relocation service call in Ovilla, Miracle pulled a copperhead snake from a homeowner’s woodpile and was later surprised by what she found.
“The homeowner called us because his dog had been bitten, and so we ran over and we pulled apart this huge pile of wood, and finally found her in a crevice underneath the bottom row. And so we picked her up and put her in her in a bucket, like we always do, and occasionally I will hold a snake overnight so that when I release it, I can get some good photographs. And in the morning when I went to check on her right before leaving to release her, she had babies overnight,” Miracle says. “I was very shocked.”
The dog was taken to a vet and suffered no ill effects from the bite. Miracle says venomous snakes will often issue a warning strike with no venom. In fact, she says, almost all the snakes that people encounter in North Texas pose no threat to humans. Most are nonvenomous, and some that do have venom are a threat only to their prey. Only four snakes — copperheads, corals, cotton mouths and rattlesnakes – are potentially a threat to people. And then there’s the ubiquitous, frightening but harmless Texas rat snake.
“You know what I always call rat snakes? Little jerk faces because they can be quite an irritant,” she says. “But then I reach down and pick them up all the time and never get bitten. I think I had one rat snake that bit me on the knee a couple of years ago on Mother’s Day. But I had poked it with a stick, and it fell out of the tree. I would have probably bitten me too.”
All snakes, she adds, perform a service that everyone relies on, which is why she and her family take whatever chance they get to spread the message about relocating, not killing, snakes that are anywhere they shouldn’t be.
“Snakes are beneficial to the environment. Their main function on this planet is rodent control or pest control, and when you start killing them, then you allow the prey that they consume to get a toehold,” she says.
Miracle says that if you have snakes hanging around your property, then you must also have rodents that are attracting them. To make your home, yard and garage less welcoming to snakes, you must actually ward off the rodents.
Miracle says that keeping a wood pile in your yard is sure to attract rodents, and therefor snakes, and the only means of keeping both out of a structure is to seal up all entry points from floor to ceiling on the outside of the structure. Hardware cloth can keep animals from passing through large entry points in a wall or under a floor. Crack-sealing foam is useful for filling gaps in siding or around windows. Steel wool can stop intruders from entering weep holes at the base of brick walls. Commercially available copper mesh costs more than steel wool but lasts much longer when used as a gap, crack and weep hole stuffing.
As for glue traps as a tactic for dealing with either rodents or snakes, Miracle pleads with people not to use them.
“Glue traps are the devil. They are a slow and insidious death for anything that’s caught on it, and I’ve personally pulled birds, lizards and kittens off glue traps,” she says. “They’re basically death by dehydration over a number of days.”
She also advises against rat poisons as they kill not only rats but rat predators such as owls, hawks and cats. Additionally, she says snake repellants, either synthetic or organic, are wholly ineffective. Elimination of food sources outside the home and physical exclusion barriers at all entry points into a home are the only effective prevention measures.
In the four years that Miracle and her family have offered their snake relocation services to the public, Save Our Snakes has caught about 500 snakes on properties throughout North Texas and released them at an offsite location. They’ve also moved spiney lizards and other animals trapped in everything from dog houses to appliances.
“I have personally pulled possums out of people’s washing machine,” Miracle says. “I get a lot of calls for birds. I helped a duck that had flown into a window because once people learn that you care about wildlife, you kind of get all the calls — all of a sudden — even if it’s not really what you do, but you try to help anyway.”
Balancing her career as a real estate agent with answering calls for relocation services around the clock and responding to simple texts with photos anytime someone needs help identifying a snake species, Miracle spreads a pro-snake message to anyone who will listen, and she says she’s been encouraged by the changes she’s seen in people’s change of heart when encountering snakes.
“I have people who have literally told me Miracle, I was walking on the trail; I saw a snake. Normally I would have had a heart attack and died on the spot, but this time I was able to look at it, identify it, and then I turned around and walked away, which I could not have done without you,” she says. “And I’ve had people tell me because of what I saw in your information, I actually relocated the snake myself – I took it out of my house in a bucket. So, I feel like I’m making headway.”
Anyone who needs snake relocation assistance may call 214-763-1857 at any time day or night.