WOLFSVILLE — Julia Hutto Gilbert has worked in a veterinarian’s office, but she admits to being afraid of snakes.
So, when Gilbert saw a 4-foot-long timber rattlesnake in her chicken coop Thursday, “First I froze, then I screamed,” she said.
Gilbert was feeding her chickens. She did not see the snake until it rattled. It was 2 feet away, she said.
“He didn’t eat any of my chickens,” Gilbert said. “He may have been in there getting mice. They will eat baby chicks and eggs.”
A neighbor used a pole with a noose to corral the snake in a barrel. “We took it up in the mountain and released it,” Gilbert said.
“It was a big, beautiful snake, but I don’t want him around here anymore,” Gilbert said. “I’m terrified of snakes.”
The reptile had to be a male because it was big and muscular, Gilbert said.
Gilbert said her husband has lived in Wolfsville for 26 years, and the rattlesnake was the first he had seen.
“Black snakes are common around here, and we’ve seen one copperhead out in the field,” Gilbert said.
She said after this incident, her husband plans to build a new location for the chickens, farther from the house. The current chicken coop is only 10 feet from the house.
Gilbert’s neighbor advised her to rattle things and make some noise when she feeds her chickens to drive the snakes away.
Gilbert’s nephew looked up the snake on the computer and concluded it was a timber rattler, Gilbert said.
Officials from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources could not be reached for comment, but Sam Staley, a seasonal employee at Cunningham Falls State Park, said rattlesnakes are usually seen in remote, mountainous areas of the state.
“But we rarely see rattlesnakes in the common areas, where people are,” Staley said.
Maryland boasts 27 species and subspecies of snakes, only two of which are venomous, the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead, according to the Department of Natural Resources website.
The snakes that have been traditionally viewed as the most beneficial to humans are those that feed on rodents, including the copperhead and rattlesnake, as well as the Eastern milk snake, black racer, black rat snake and corn snake.
It is legal in Maryland to possess or collect without a permit up to four snakes from the wild as pets for all species except these four endangered species — timber rattlesnake, rainbow snake, scarlet snake and mountain earth snake, according to DNR.