Affection for Killer Snakes: The Great Pythons

Choice of pet can reflect misguided vanity.

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The parts of the brain covering complex emotions have not evolved in reptiles, just the brain stem and cerebellum (red)  diagram by crystalinks.comMini-Schnauzer.  A warm heart covered in fur.  No cold-hearted pythons for me!Kids and giant snakes are better apart.  A game for the child: thoughts of prey for the python. Sun Paper photoI told you not to get me mad!  A Python has a very nasty bite.    www.conan photoBoa Constrictor:  Smaller than large pythons, still quite a handfull at 13 feet long!  www.hilariousheadlines.com photo"Worm."  Finally, a Reticulated Python, which could overpower and eat a small man with ease.  animal.discovery.com photo
The parts of the brain covering complex emotions have not evolved in reptiles, just the brain stem and cerebellum (red)  diagram by crystalinks.com
The parts of the brain covering complex emotions have not evolved in reptiles, just the brain stem and cerebellum (red) diagram by crystalinks.com
Mini-Schnauzer.  A warm heart covered in fur.  No cold-hearted pythons for me!
Mini-Schnauzer. A warm heart covered in fur. No cold-hearted pythons for me!
Kids and giant snakes are better apart.  A game for the child: thoughts of prey for the python. Sun Paper photo
Kids and giant snakes are better apart. A game for the child: thoughts of prey for the python. Sun Paper photo
I told you not to get me mad!  A Python has a very nasty bite.    www.conan photo
I told you not to get me mad! A Python has a very nasty bite. www.conan photo
Boa Constrictor:  Smaller than large pythons, still quite a handfull at 13 feet long!  www.hilariousheadlines.com photo
Boa Constrictor: Smaller than large pythons, still quite a handful at 13 feet long! www.hilariousheadlines.com photo
"Worm."  Finally, a Reticulated Python, which could overpower and eat a small man with ease.  animal.discovery.com photo
"Worm." Finally, a Reticulated Python, which could overpower and eat a small man with ease. animal.discovery.com photo

Are owners more mindless than their pets?

The Reptile Brain Takes No Prisoners.

I was interested (again) to read of a “tame” 12-foot Burmese Python which broke out of its pen and killed a two-year-old child in Florida this week by strangling her.

The snake’s owner found this tableau and stabbed the snake, but he was too late and as the python slithered-off he found the little girl was not breathing.

Burmese pythons have become quite a nuisance in Florida in the wild since (it is thought) the problem began when several escaped from a pet shop in 1993, and happily made a home in the huge Everglades swamps, an area as big as Wales. There was a report of one last month that had constricted an alligator and eaten it. The bony saurian caused the snake to “burst.” It must have been a pretty sight when discovered, the ultimate “his eyes were bigger than his stomach”

The Burmese Python is one of the world’s largest snakes and the longest found in India, growing to around 18 feet. This is easily exceeded by another Asian python, the Reticulated Python, which has been reported in excess of 28 feet. It has been estimated that any constricting snake of more than eight feet long can easily overpower and kill a child, perhaps even swallowing a very small baby. Snakes of twelve feet and more can do the same with an adult human. Luckily, they don’t make a habit of it, although close to a dozen attacks by large pythons in the wild have resulted in kids or adults being strangled and/or eaten. And they are only the ones you hear about. Rural people in Asia and Africa are more phlegmatic over these kinds of disasters and the nation’s media is a long way away.

Incidentally, a python or boa-constrictor really doesn’t aim to strangle its victims (prey). It normally seeks to suffocate them by preventing breathing until the prey expires. A fact not mentioned so often by champions of keeping these really quite dangerous reptiles is that they can also bite, leaving wounds that can require stitches. This is common when they mistake the hand of the owner for the small mammal being offered as dinner. (Unless this is a crafty way of giving the jailer a nip!)

The 64,000 dollar question regarding pet snakes and other reptiles kept as such, is “Does he feel any affection or love towards me?”

To answer that we need to take a look at the so-called, “Reptile, or R-Complex, Brain.” As you see in the diagram, this is a simple affair and is the basis of our own brains, consisting of the brain stem, the bump on the end of the spinal chord and the cerebellum. This mainly controls instinctive behaviour and thinking. This basic brain structure, part of our own brains, evolved more than 100 million years ago, and with reptiles it stopped right there. Their brains date back more than 200 million years and cover only fundamental needs of survival, physical maintenance and defence, hoarding, dominance and mating.

This means snakes, etc., not only do not feel love and affection, as we understand it, they have no part of their brains to deal with or manufacture these emotions. What you may interpret at times as being affection is merely your snake showing he doesn’t fear you and may be physically comfortable with your presence, or finds himself relaxed with the warmth of your hands as you handle him. The probable reason there are not more attacks on owners by large pythons or boas is they realize the human is the dominant party. (but not so with small kids!). And, after all, he cleans up the poo and brings a nice juicy rat for lunch ever few days. But if you put him in the woods he is just as likely to head for the hills without a backward glance, much less a feeling of loss. And don’t bother calling him, snakes are basically deaf.

Florida and other parts of the world have laws governing ownership of these powerful predators. The problem is snakes like the Burmese Python grow very quickly, at which point people suddenly realize the balance of power has swung in the favour of the snake, after it picks up poor old gran and bangs her against the wall a couple of times while trying to wrap a couple of muscular coils around her chest (which they do very fast, incidently).  As finding a home is then tough, people often take a drive into the boonies and release cute little 18-foot George, who starts consuming Florida’s endangered species (even alligators are protected).

Based on their characters, propensity to cause harm, and in the interest of the creatures themselves, I am not an advocate of keeping pythons, venomous snakes, spiders, centipedes and scorpions in captivity. It can’t be much of a life for any wild creature to be cooped up in a pen or suffocating aquarium all its life. Why do people do it when loving and lovable dogs are desperately looking for adoption? Do they think it gives them cachet to pull the python out at parties, or have enthralled guest watch it suffocate a screaming guinea pig?

I think the answer lies with the parents of the child killed by their “mindless” pet Burmese Python in Florida. Wouldn’t they like to turn the clock back and have bought a Mini-Schnauzer?

 

 

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Comments 17 comments

HubCrafter profile image

HubCrafter 6 years ago from Arizona

Wow! I stop to check up on my reptilian brain and find myself hugging a python story.

Nice job. You know a wonderful secret.

How to appeal to the Reader. Kudos.

I'll be following your Hubs.

HubCrafter


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi HC: Thanks for interest and kind remarks...happy Christmas to you! Bob


Mechlott 6 years ago

All I can really say is kiss my ass. I had a Columbian Red Tail Boa for a long time (gave him to a local school where he is being very well taken care of) and I have a Royal Python named Ares. I have NEVER had a problem out of any of my herps and probably never will. They show distinctive personalities and and no, while the don't and cant love, they do show their own forms of affection and lack there of for certain people. Yea, there are problems inherent with caring for larger species that people should be made aware of when choosing the snake, but overall, i think id rather have my snake and feed it that little Mini-Schnauzer than to go as far as not having him. Before you go bashing snakes and their handlers, why don't you try owning one yourself.


Boa Constrictor 6 years ago

I agree with mechlott, but you're right also. These are quite dangerous things if you are clueless... For example the guy who let his python escape, how it is possible for snake that big to escape? There are several theories A) His brains are primitive and don't know how to install locks. B)He was well aware of possible escape attempts even succeeding in one, he just didn't care. C)He just let the encloser's door open? No matter what happened tells us that he is a bad snake keeper and shouldn't have snakes and he didn't even had the recuired license for the burmese python, so yet a good example for a bad snake keeper. As there was mentioned about people who doesn't know how big his/her snake can grow and releases them to wild after it gone too big shouldn't allow to have snakes either and also the buyer of the snake have to consider it's long lifetime, these can live quite long well cared. Also the tragedy could been avoided if he would used a common sense, keep the snakes in own room and always close the door. Snakes cant open doors so far i know? Well i guess that was it. -Proud keeper of a Boa Constrictor-


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Interesting hub on pythons diogenes. Humans have some strange ideas on their 'rights' to own potentially dangerous wild animals. Its not hard to work out that pythons grow to be very large, and work out whether you have the space and money to keep them properly. People should realise that puppies and kittens are pets who will love them back, and that large snakes are large snakes who should be happily living in the wild or in a properly designed environment in a zoo


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Exactly. They should be left in the natural habitat where they belong. A reptile has no capacity to interact with man...Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hey, Mechlott. Just read you rude comment. Get your snake to "k--s your a-s" Bob


Joann 5 years ago

Agree there are so MANY cats and dogs being euthanized. It doesn't make any sense to me to captivate WILD animals. They belong in the wild! Every week there are pictures of dogs and cats in the newspaper that are needing adoption. EVERY sane person should research ANY animal they indeed to keep as a "pet".


diogenese 5 years ago

You are so right, Joann. It breaks my heart to see all these dogs being abandoned and mistreated, as well as cats.

The law is so lax where animal's rights are concerned and it has got worse over the last 20 years in Britain; I don't suppose the States is any better. Thanks for your visit...Bob


scitsy 5 years ago

Snakes have very distinct personalities. I'm a proud owner of three ghost/red tailed boas, and I can tell who's who just by the way they react, and relax in their home. That's why we own them, because we adore them. Not because they adore us. I expect to get bitten, and I expect it to hurt. They are perfect predators. As for them getting released into the wild. how many dogs/cats are released into the wild because they are A. Unloved B. Bite someone C. Unaffordable D. Too big. People do this to all creatures. The problem in florida is caused from the fact that snakes have 20-80 young. Not the frequency of realeses. If you don't like it in florida, or the snakes scare you go to rome. There's millions of stray cats.

P.S. I'm tempted to spend the money on a mini-shnauzer just to feed him to my snake. To show you how nature really is and feels about snakes compared to dogs lol


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

You sound like a dumn asshole: just the type who own large snakes...Bob


Michael 4 years ago

Bob - Your childish responses don't surprise me after reading your "article" if we can even call it that. I own 22 snakes and plan on getting up to 30 this year. 5 yrs + of ownership and my worst bite has come from a neonate snake. I am able to employ one person, support my wonderful family and promote the boa family by captive conservation. You sir seem like an opinionated old man but worse, the kind that is often wrong and impossible to have a dialogue with. Keep on spreading your free mongering. For every false article you produce I will produce 30 snake babies and new owners to go along with them!


diogenes 4 years ago

I can and do have dialogues with many decent people on HP and other sites.

But when I come upon someone like you who was rude and arrogant from the outset, this old man has few words.

Just piss off suffices

Bob


Kelly 4 years ago

Uhmmm... what about goddamn pitbulls? Pretty sure that many more people and pets are either maimed or killed by these dogs than snakes. Like it's been mentioned. We don't keep snakes because we want a cuddly pet- it's a different situation. I for one admire their beauty and enjoy keeping them as a hobby. And for all the people who say that snake owners should have just adopted a cat or dog-- if I wanted another fluffy thing I would go get one. I do have a cat that I love very much, but I also enjoy my red tail boa immensely.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

I have just returned to this article to answer latest comment.

nothing i have heard from reptile owners has endeared me to them: they call me opiniated, etc., plus other insults and rudeness which does little to help their case.

To me, they are just arrogant show-offs who find owning a scarey reptile panders to their insecurity. They think people will think they are brave and with it when they are really just insecure little children.

Get a Mini Schnauzer, creeps! (Not you Kelly, your comment was reasoned and polite)

Bob


Stormy1990 profile image

Stormy1990 3 years ago

Whoo! Lots of heated comments! I have to say though, great hub! I agree with diogenes that snakes should not be kept as pets. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being fascinated by these reptiles, and in fact, I enjoy studying and learning about them.

The reason why they're not good pets is because, (a) They're inherently dangerous, (b) They're mindless killing machines, and (c) throughout history, and even nowadays, they signify evil.

A mini schnauzer, or my personal preference: Teacup Yorkies, have much more personality and are much more lovable then any snake you could own.


Ryan 3 years ago

To quote Dr. Alan Grant from Jurrassic Park, "They're not monsters; they're just animals." They do what they do to survive, but they don't actively go out of their way to murder people. As far as being pets, it just depends on what you're looking for. If I wanted furry affection, I'll play with my cats or dogs. Hell, if I wanted any socialization, I'd hang with my friends. But I would prefer a rather beautiful, yet unusual animal instead for a pet that requires no social attention, but rather, exists to be admired for its physique. As far as being dangerous, you need to understand nonvenomous reptiles. Without sharp claws or thrashing tails, they're rather safer than most other animals out there. My declawed cats have caused me more pain than either of my pythons.

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