Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Snake Killed by Air Conditioner

Side of body and top of head:  Rat Snake killed by Air Conditioner

This is distressing.  I was working in the yard before it got dark.  Evening sounds included birds, cars, chirping frogs, barking dogs and the ubiquitous drone of air conditioners.  Suddenly there was a sharp clanging of rattling metal coming from my air conditioner.  Did my AC unit have a tin can trapped inside with the fan blade?   I was horrified to see that there was an ANIMAL inside the unit.  A snake was being tossed like a pizza by the whirling fan.  Each time the snake’s body slammed against the top of the housing, a flurry of scales and skin would blow out  before he fell back, banging among the spinning blades.  

Aaaaaaa!!!   Panicking, I ran into the house to turn off the electricity, then I raced back outside.  When I returned to the air conditioner, I saw that the poor, broken snake had somehow managed to climb to a metal lip above the blades.  He was curled up, dead.  Seeing his injuries, I cannot imagine how he achieved that final, excruciating climb.  With a coat hanger, I extricated him - like pulling a sad thread through a needle.

Why had he gone in there?  Was he looking for shade, moisture, food, or a rough place to shed skin?   A green anole ( Anolis carolinensis) hangs out in that AC unit.  Maybe the snake was after the anole.  I called our air conditioning service company and asked how this tragedy could be prevented in the future.   I was told that it could not be avoided.   I hate that answer.  The AC technician said that insects, bugs, lizards and shed snake skins are not unusual to find when they perform service on these units.  

I have looked my copy of A Field Guide to Texas Snakes, by Alan Tennant and I think this may be a rat snake, Elaphe spp.   Dear Readers, some of you are experts on Texas snakes.  Please look at the grim photos and identify this unfortunate young ‘un.  Post your identification in the comments for all to see. Thanks!
Dorsal view of his markings:  Rat Snake killed by the Air Conditioner
Ventral view of head and tail:  Rat Snake killed by the Air Conditioner
If his back had not been broken in two places, he might be about 29" long. Poor Snake:  killed by the Air Conditioner Fan.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

This just happened with me as well. I am saddened by this as I cannot imagine a worse death. My yard guy wants all of the snakes in my yard dead and I don't. They aren't poisonous snakes and if they keep pests at bay, then hey! I am all about that. Would prefer snakes to rats - which carry disease!

Born and bred in Texas....just moved to Florida a few years ago :-).

Sally said...

Oh, I am so sorry to hear about a snake tragedy at your house. Yikes! How common is this? I understand about the yard crew problem, too. I was furious when our lawn guys killed a ribbon snake. I had to say, "My Yard, My Snakes!" You will probably be more tactful and educate folks to appreciate the value of having snakes. :-)

Jodi said...

Oh no, I am so sad to hear about this! How horrible for both you and the snake. I will have to watch for similar dangers in my own backyard habitat. Thanks for sharing this cautionary tale.

Designs by Sweet Mesquite said...

I live in Central Texas, and we have had this happen a few times. Once it was a hognose snake, and twice it was a king snake. :(

I found your page today while looking for photos of the snake I found ON TOP OF MY FRIDGE! Yes! You read that right, ON TOP OF MY FRIDGE! (It's a Prairie Rat Snake in case you are wondering.)

I used to be of the mindset "the only good snake is a dead snake!!" but with this horrible drought we are in, and all the rodents that have come, seeking water...I am more of the mindset, if it ain't biting me/mine, I'm good! lol (Well, not truly...as long as it's not a rattler/cottonmouth, I'm ok.) Though there is a snake (I believe it is the rat snake) that also rattles it's tail, and if there are dry leaves or anything nearby it can sound similar to a rattlesnake. (ESPECIALLY to someone like me who is TERRIFIED by the sound!)

I'm sorry this happened. One of the AC guys we takled to said that you COULD put a mesh around the top/sides of your AC compressor unit, but it COULD impede airflow.

Oma Gammel said...

That’s a bit scary! I’m afraid that I might find a live snake crawling near the air conditioner. I think the answer to keep animals like this away from the A/C unit is to keep the area always clean. Take some time to weed the area of the A/C unit, and make a fence to keep the grass from growing. This animal can possibly damage the air conditioning system, if it was not working that time. Sadly, it was the snake that was killed. I feel sorry for this little creature. ->Oma Gammel

Darryl Iorio said...

Aww, that's really distressing! I really feel sorry for him, even though I fear the likes of this poor reptile. However, it doesn't keep me from wondering how on earth did this creature came on your AC fan. I wish we could find a way on how to prevent an incident like this.

Darryl Iorio

Anonymous said...

This just happened to me, it was a baby king snake. Luckily my yard has a lot of snakes of several species but I am going to put some type of screen over the fan.

Sally said...

Anonymous, I hope that screen works for you. I considered putting up a screen, but have not done it. I do keep the area around the condenser mowed very short so there is no appealing habitat for critters. Good luck!

robert jeffrey said...

Oh wow! I was glad to find this post, I hope it is still relevant as I had a very disturbing experience with a Green Anole being (most likely) killed in a window unit air conditioner. Where I work in San Antonio there are quite a few of these cute little guys running around all over the place. They don't cause any trouble at all, they're just very green and very active, starting around this time of year. But today there was a small Anole hanging out on and around the window air conditioning unit (it's actually not in a window but rather in a cut out of the wall in the very small building I work in). I didn't think much of him (or her) at the time, but as usual, I was just sort of watching the creature as these are very interesting animals to observe - they are so human, it's scary! He/she was jumping around from the top of the A/C to the trash bin and so on and everything seemed fine until, for some reason, the little guy got spooked and crawled through one of the opening slits (or vents) of the A/C (which was on at the time as it was quite humid today) and most certainly got shredded to a pulp! All I heard was a repetitive and rapid Thump, Thump and then again Thump, Thump, and then sort of a crackling noise! My face turned white and my stomach turned cold! This small reptile climbed into his death! But how? Was he sucked in by the fan or did he jump into the destruction? I swear to God I've never felt more responsible for a creature's demise in my life, if I had not been out there watching him this may not of ever happened! I never tried to touch him or disturb him in anyway, but just by my being present and observing I caused a catastrophe! This is a lesson that human beings should never get too involved with nature unless they know exactly what they are doing! There is no way I could have foreseen this horror, but in the future I will stay far away from creatures of nature as no one can predict what the consequences of involvement might be!

Unknown said...

Mine was a poor little tree frog, yesterday morning, same exact reaction when I saw it. Back feet were still attached to the grid. Im hoping after all these years there is a solution. I read it may have been after the bugs attracted to my back light. So now i try to leave it off. Just awful...

Sally said...

I am so sorry to hear about your tree frog. You have a good idea there, about turning off the light when you don't need it. Surely that will help. Best wishes to you.

Sally said...

Robert Jeffrey, I deeply apologize that I am a year late in seeing your post about your Green Anole. What a dreadful experience for both of you. Certainly, you were only observing and meant no harm. Your comments reminded me of a time when I tried to guide a Mockingbird fledgling away from a busy road. Instead, my good intentions frightened the baby and cause it to hop directly into the traffic. Observing something affects the situation. I believe the best response (after I finished weeping) is to keep doing all we can to improve the habitat (food, water, shelter) we share with all critters.