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Don't Push Me! (A Snake's Point Of View)
Do You Fear Snakes?
How many times have people exaggerated tales about snakes? Snopes.com constantly displays how oversized snake pictures are faked by camera angles, and people being eaten by them are Photoshop jokes. Yet, because of the phobia, called Ophidiophobia, many people experience, in addition to religious opinions concerning apples and such, snakes are given a bad rap. What if a snake could tell his side of the story? What would the snake say……?
Point / Counterpoint: A Snake's Viewpoint
Okay, let’s be blunt. It’s about time I had my say! I’m going to hiss real slow you can understand.
I don’t like you or any of your kind. And I know the feeling’s mutual. We both have phobia’s about each other. Big deal!
Not too long ago, my family had all this land to ourselves. We could roam where we wanted, hunt when we wanted and sleep when and where we wanted. During my early years, I had to watch out for birds, mostly hawks and owls, as they wanted to partake of my fat free body. (sing now, "I’m Too Sexy For My Skin, too sexy…", okay, enough!) Now, at over six feet, they know better than to mess with me. I just have to watch out for wild pigs and gators! Oh, and those damn things you call cars!
The gopher tortoise will tell you that I‘m not hard to get along with. We even share dens at times. He stays on his side and I on mine. He’s a pain to eat (broke a fang on a shell once, but, like always, it grew back) and I’m too dangerous for him to mess with. So, there’s really no need to step on each other’s toes (if I had any, that is).
Years ago, a couple of you humans came into my neck of the woods with your hooked sticks and fabric bags. I watched as you picked up one of my brothers, flipped him in the bag, and tied up the opening. Then, you stuck him in a bucket with strange markings on it that looked like this:
For Your Reading Pleasure
That was the last time I saw him. I was hiding in the dried leaves under a bush, my beautiful body camouflage blending in perfectly with my surroundings, while I cooled myself from the afternoon sun. (Didn't see me, did ya?) My brother had been asleep sunning himself on a rock when you found him. He’d been out late the night before (chasing rodents with the Copperhead down the way) and was really tired. I felt the vibrations of your steps as you neared, but the breeze was blowing the wrong direction and my tongue failed to catch your scent. My eyes aren’t that good, but my Loreal pit receptors picked up your body heat when you finally came into view.
Oh, well, we really weren’t that close. Fool should’ve know better than to party with a copper!
Not only am I big, but my bite packs quite a punch. Last night, a wood rat smarted off and quickly felt my fangs. Sucker fell dead within seconds. (I'm like your Jimmy Cagney, no more dirty rat.) And, don’t think your size will make you immune. One or two bites from me and you’ll be down, maybe forever!
My venom is primarily what you call hemotoxic, meaning it’s going to mess with your blood system by keeping it from clotting, as well as, break down tissue and such. And, I’ve got a lot of it being my size and all. There’s a little guy around here you call the Coral Snake. His venom’s neurotoxic. It will stop the synapses in your brain and shut down your nervous system. It might be a good idea to leave both of us alone.
But look, I really don’t want to bite you. My whole plan is to save my venom to kill my food. See, I quickly strike my prey and recoil because I could suffer bites and scratches that could become infected. Since I have no white corpuscles to fight infection, a scratch or bite can be my death penalty. So, I strike quickly and let the venom neutralize my prey’s defenses. Nice thing is the venom also starts breaking down tissue and such. You might say it’s kind of a meat tenderizer! I swallow my food whole and any help I can get stops indigestion. There's not many places in the woods to pick up a bromo fizzie!
I like the woods as they provide multiple escape options if I need them. But, when bad weather arrives, I’m going to hunt for someplace to keep dry. If it’s a burrow, great! If it’s a barn or under your house or car, I really don’t care. I just want to stay dry. And, remember, my kind were living here long before your kind came around, so don’t push the issue! Your land is my land!
In fact, you may be surprised where you can find me. I've huddled atop your vehicle’s motor to get warm on chilly nights, under your porch to keep cool in the summer, and even behind the freezer in your garage just because I could. (With all the mice you have there you should advertise it as an all-you-can-eat rodent buffet.) Also, I like warm concrete at dusk. So, if you decide to walk down the street or sidewalk, you might want to keep your eyes open.
Like you, I (literally) refuse to be walked on! Look at it this way, would you let King Kong step on you? Of course not! Well, to me, you’re as big (and stupid) as King Kong! Believe me, I will not allow you to step on me, no more than you’d let me crawl on you. (I shudder at the thought.. slimy humans!)
In fact, even though I have a rattle, I may not use it. I know as soon as I start shaking my tail, you’re gonna go and get a stick or something and try to kill me. Wake up the whole neighborhood, you will! So, why should I alert you? Let's just say, "I'll think about it." However, if I’m feeling particularly neighborly one day, I may rattle before your kids get too close. But, do warn them, I like a lot of space.
That doesn’t just come from me. It comes from all my relatives… rattlers, copperheads, cottonmouths, and even that squirt the Coral Snake! I’m being serious when I say you’d better stay away! I promise we won’t chase you! Just back up slowly and walk away!
By the way, watch out for my kids, too. I had twelve of the little snappers the other day and I swear, when they coil up, they each look like a pile of dog poo. I don’t know where they’re at. They couldn’t wait to get away from me. (They’ll never know a mother’s love.) They have little buttons for rattles that you can’t hear yet, but, like me, if they bite you‘re going down. They make a mother so proud!
If I had anything to add to what’s already been said, it would simply be,
“Leave Me Alone. Your kind and mine don’t like each other so let’s not push it. We’ll never be friends, I will never be your warm and fuzzy pet, and I’ll kill you if you push me, just like I know you will me. Just let me be!”
“By the way, my stomach’s growling. Is the buffet open?”
All Joking Aside
As some urban areas are finding, without natural habitat, the natural enemies of rodents are becoming scarce. (The Eastern Diamondback is very close to being included on the endangered list.) Rats and mice are taking over, and with them, the threat of diseases spreading grows greater.
Snakes are creatures of habit and instinct. Most will never travel more than three miles from where they are born. If that land becomes an apartment complex or industrial setting, these creatures have nowhere to go.
Seldom, if ever, do snakes chase people. This is what generally occurs:
"You see one coming and your phobia rushes over you. You turn and run. Out of breath, you stop and turn around. You see the snake still coming and think it’s chasing you! The snake’s just going the same direction it was when you first saw it! If you turn right or left, you’ll find the snake has gone on its way. "
Again, snakes are instinctive, not vindictive. It’s against all instinct to chase something bigger than themselves.
People generally get bit when doing stupid things, like trying to capture, hold, or kill a snake. Any experienced herp owner will tell you, “it’s not if you get bit, it’s when you get bit” when you deal with a venomous reptile. Don’t be stupid! Leave them alone and call the local authorities. They generally have a list of experienced individuals that will relocate them at little or no charge.
Don’t be selfish! The world is big enough for all species to thrive! Living with nature means a future still exists!
Remember, there’s two sides to every story!
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