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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Herpetological Tips

Snakes get a raw deal. Many (most?) people are deathly afraid of them and would just as soon the world be rid of them, lock-stock-and-barrel. As with many things, the loathing and fear of our reptilian friends is generally born of ignorance.

Let’s examine the fear of snakes. Data on deaths caused by animals in the U.S. from 1979-1990 reveals an average of 60 deaths per year caused by venomous animals. Of those 60, only 6 were caused by venomous snakes . . . the others by wasps, bees, hornets, and spiders. In comparison to those 6 deaths caused by venomous snakes, 16 deaths per year were caused by dogs. Add to that the more than 100 people killed every year in automobile collisions with white tailed deer. Statistically there are about 6,000 snake bites (all varieties) every year in the United States while there is an average of 4.5 million annual dog bites – 750 times as many. So, our real worries should be Fido and Bambi, not the rat snake or garter snake – or even the copperhead – by the woodpile. I’m guessing that after reading this, your fear of snakes is greatly diminished.

The other factor is how ecologically beneficial – vital, even – snakes are. Snakes are significant predators that keep the population of other animals in check, primarily rodents. We all know how fast mice and rats can multiply when they aren’t held in check. Prey without predators is bad news, and rodents that are free to eat and breed all day without worry would soon overrun the earth. So unless you like to think of tiptoeing through billions of mice and rats, be thankful for snakes.

For unknown reasons, I’ve always been fascinated by snakes. When living in North Carolina, I used to catch them for up-close observation and then let them go. I was only bitten once, and it was much less serious than the same from, for instance, a Doberman.

My encouragement is to not fear snakes (unless it’s a black mamba in your living room), to appreciate their beauty, and to be thankful for how they help preserve an ecological balance.

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