Using olive oil to help free a kingsnake from a glue board. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

From time to time I have used glue boards in my garage to control field mice. While glue boards are not necessarily very humane, they are highly effective at catching anything that comes in contact with the sticky surface.

Earlier this week I had an interesting experience. The garage door had been closed most of the day, but at some point an unexpected visitor got into our garage — a young common kingsnake, about 14 inches in length.

I have no idea how the snake got into the garage, but its entire body was in full contact with the glue board. At first I wasn’t even sure if the snake was alive so I gently touched it. Sure enough it moved ever so slightly, so I immediately sprang into action.

I don’t know how I learned this, but a while back I heard that if you used either vegetable or olive oil you could release an object stuck to a glue board. I had the opportunity to try this technique a while ago on a whip-tailed lizard that found its way into our garage and was stuck on a glue board. Using virgin olive oil, I successfully removed the lizard from the glue board.

My challenge now was to take my previous experience of saving a lizard and apply it to the snake. I brought the glue board into the kitchen and placed it on the counter. I grabbed a large bottle of olive oil and poured a generous amount of oil directly onto the snake and the glue board.

Using my fingers, I gently started working the oil around the body of the snake, and in a surprisingly short period of time I was able to free most of the snake from the glue board. As more of the snake became free, it became increasingly more challenging to keep the snake from coming into contact with the glue board as it was wriggling every which way.

In probably less than two minutes I had the entire snake completely free of the glue board. It was remarkable! My next task was to remove the oil from the snake before I released it. I turned on the tap in the kitchen sink and adjusted the water temperature to the point where I felt it was safe for the snake — not too hot, not too cold, but just right!

In an effort to remove as much of the oil as I could, I gently “washed” (using no soap) the snake under a constant stream of running water. When I thought it was sufficiently clean, I set about drying it using a dry dish cloth with a soft patting motion.

I have to say, the snake was being so good during this whole ordeal. I can’t imagine what it must have been thinking. One minute it was helplessly stuck to a glue board, the next minute it is being slathered in oil, then it is being run under a stream of tepid water, and finally it is being dried.

After drying the snake, I took it outside and set it free. It looked fine, and my hope is that there will be no long-term effects from its ordeal. I’ll probably never know “the rest of the story,” but I did feel good about my efforts to save it.

The moral of the story is to be extremely careful if you choose to use glue boards. Try to place them where you won’t accidently catch anything other than your desired target, such as field mice.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona – Prescott and Flagstaff. He has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at