This item appeared in the local newspaper (The Baxter Bulletin) August 4, 2006. Yellville is about 30 miles west of Mtn Home. Not how I would handle this guy's problem.
Dozens of the snakes gather again in Yellville man's yard
Bulletin Staff Writer
YELLVILLE — Each night, dozens of slithering copperhead snakes make their way to Chuck Miller's yard.
It's a phenomena that, as of yet, has no explanation.
This summer marks at least the second year that the copperheads have gathered in areas of Miller's remote property outside the Yellville city limits.
The gathering of snakes is something that doesn't surprise or bother Miller. He built a house in the middle of woods on a mountain and expects to be surrounded by nature, he said Thursday.
"All day they are all hidden," Miller said. "At night it's like someone let them out of a bucket."
The unusual situation has caught the attention of Stanley E. Trauth, a zoology professor with the University of Arkansas. This year, he and an ASU graduate student are tracking the movements of the snakes with tiny tracking devices.
"There's got to be a good reason," Trauth said. "We can hypothesize, but we don't know why."
The scenario is similar to last year.
After nightfall, the snakes began to congregate near a cedar tree and another clump of trees in Miller's yard, staying for a few hours. The snakes began gathering about mid-July, appearing every night for about one month until they hibernate.
At the last count, 20 copperheads have been tagged, although about 100 showed up on Miller's property last summer, Trauth said. Some snakes that were tagged last year have returned to the same area, he added.
A possible reason why the snakes gather in the area may be due to temperature, he said. Temperature loggers have been set around the property.
"We're keeping up with the temperature in a 24-hour cycle," Trauth said.
After Miller catches the snakes with a long-handled device, a graduate student takes them back to ASU, where a tracking device about the size of a grain of rice is inserted under the snakes' skin. The animals are then released back on Miller's property.
This year, something even more unusual happened.
A speckled king snake ate a copperhead that was tagged with a tracking device, Miller said. He found out the snake ate the copperhead when the graduate student used a transmitter and found the device inside the king snake, he said.
By observation, Miller has learned the snakes are not gathering to feed or to mate, he said. Almost all of the snakes that appear are males, Miller said.
Although Miller spends the majority of his time outside, he has never been bitten by a poisonous snake, he said. Still, catching the snakes for the research project gives Miller a charge.
"There's a chance of getting bit," Miller said. "You've got to have a little adrenaline rush."
Copperheads are venomous snakes in the pit viper family and thrive in a rocky, rugged habitat. The snakes' brown and tan markings help it blend in with the leaves and rocks of the Ozark region.
In the meantime, Trauth plans to continue researching the site to determine the reasons behind the unique circumstance.
"We're keeping up with this," Trauth said. "We're still studying the site and coming up with innovative ideas to record data."
Originally published August 4, 2006