Well, part of a snake.
At first we thought it had had an unfortunate encounter with the bush hog when the field was mowed a few days earlier. We prodded it a little, and found that it was intact and alive but mostly buried under brush and grass clippings. We had a Black Racer hanging around in "our" berries. No big deal. We'll just let it go on its way and come back to picking that section of canes later, we thought.
But it couldn't "go on its way." Because it had experienced an "unfortunate encounter" of a different kind - it had gotten itself utterly and hopelessly tangled into the black netting that we had draped over the berry canes to keep the birds out.
The thing at the top and running through to the bottom right of the photo is the snake. The thing on the left side is a piece of garden hose. The big black clump in the middle is the netting the snake was trapped in.
At this point we forgot about the berries. What do we do about this snake? We stood around, we prodded it some more to see how responsive it was. We could see that the netting was constricted around the snake, and were worried that it might get squeezed to death or something. We stood around some more, and the snake got plenty tired of us poking at it with a stick. It darted its tongue about and even "rattled" its tail, so it was strong enough to scare us into backing off. But it wasn't going anywhere.
Was either one of us brave enough to try to cut it loose? Yes and no. We (and by "we" I mean Dave) succeeded in cutting the snake's portion of the netting away from the main part covering the canes, so now at least if it moved it wouldn't have the weight of some giant swath of material and foliage pulling against it. But now what? Neither one of us was comfortable with the idea of getting in close enough to actually cut away the net from around the snake.
Then Dave had the idea to call up a fellow by the name of Dave Sagan who works with snakes and raptors at the Nature Center at Hocking College in Nelsonville, OH. We were hoping he might be able to offer us some advice as to how to handle the situation. By the time we spoke with Dave it was about 9pm. He suggested we wait it out for the night and that he'd check back with us in the morning. If the snake was still alive at that point, he would come out and deal with it.
It was, and he did.
I emailed my boss and told her I would be in late that morning because we had a "snake situation" that I had to stay home to watch be resolved. How often do you call in late with an excuse like that?! Luckily I have a cool boss, and she was very understanding.
I would estimate it took Mr. Sagan about 10 minutes to cut all the netting away from the snake. Unfortunately, I don't know how long he has been working with snakes, but I would go so far as to call him the "snake whisperer." During the entire time he worked with and held this snake, he was not bitten. He handled it with true ease and grace. He told us that if you don't approach a snake like a predator, it doesn't quite know what to do, and thus won't be aggressive toward you (not that I'm advocating that any of you kids try this at home).
Once it realized it was free, the snake started to perk up. This Black Racer was probably about 4 feet long.
Mr. Sagan observed and examined the snake for several minutes. He determined that it had a full belly, so sustenance wasn't an issue for it. He concluded that most of the damage was cosmetic, and that it should be just fine otherwise. In the picture above you can kind of see the damage to the scales on the portion of the snake that is just below and to the left of Mr. Sagan's wrist.
After he finished examining the snake, Mr. Sagan took it across the field to a location that was in direct sunlight, and let it loose in a spot where it could bask, digest its meal, and recover. We were very grateful to him for helping us with this situation. And we were glad to know that the snake would live to see another day due to our kindness, concern and respect.