Commonwealth Journal

Local News

June 23, 2008

Giant cow snake killed near Sinking Creek

Local News

A cow snake is harmless, but the sight of a reptile as big as the one killed the other day near Sinking Creek in the southern part of Somerset is enough to make a faint heart skip a couple of beats.

Brent Hale, owner of Brent’s Tree Service, said one of his employees killed the big snake. “If it isn’t a record, it’s close to it,” Hale observed.

The snake was seen in the area a day or so before it was killed, and Hale and others were watching for it. The reptile exposed itself when it was observed on the roof of a house.

They reportedly knocked the snake off the roof and whacked it with a board. It was more than 6 feet long ... or longer. The creature apparently was dead but nobody wanted to get close enough to put a ruler to it.

Josh Young, biologist with Kentucky’s Touchtone Energy Cooperatives, said on a Web site that cow snakes are completely harmless to humans. However, the snakes will bite repeatedly if attacked.

However, Young said these snakes are a very beneficial species. Some farmers have been known to keep cow snakes as “pets” in barns because the snakes are so good at keeping a “choke hold” on mice and rat populations.

Young pointed out that this snake is known by many names, including cow snake, cow sucker, chicken snake, pilot snake, mountain black snake, gray rat snake, Allegheny black snake, scaly black snake, rusty black snake, tree black snake and pilot black snake.

The most common names for the snake in this part of Kentucky are cow snake, cow sucker or chicken snake. These are not venomous snakes; cow snakes hug their prey to death. The snakes have been known to feed on just about anything, but prefer small mammals, amphibians, birds and their eggs, Young said.

Cow snakes tend to hang out around barns, storage buildings, and in trees searching for favorite foods. It is one of Kentucky’s largest snakes, sometimes reaching lengths of up to 8 feet, Young noted.

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