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Snakes

As usual about this time of year, a word needs to be said in behalf of the most mesmerizing, yet maligned, wildlife group--the snakes. Most people today have an awareness of and concern for the welfare of all wildlife and natural environments. Part of that process must include accepting the snakes, the martyrs of the natural world.

Copperhead coloration allows them to blend in almost perfectly with their surroundings. Luckily, copperhead bites are rarely, if ever, fatal.

You need not touch snakes, keep them as pets, or even look at them if it makes you uncomfortable. You should, however, accept their right to exist in the natural world. Like other wildlife, snakes should be allowed to live in peace in their native habitat.

Evoking both fascination and fear, snakes serve as a barometer of regional environmental attitudes. The extent of misinformation and inappropriate attitudes about snakes unquestionably exceeds that of any other group of animals on earth. An ecologically educated community accepts snakes as an integral component of natural environments.

U.S. snakes are highly overrated as a human threat. Of the more than 50 native snake species in the East, only 7 are

venomous, the rest harmless. Bites of the copperhead and the 2 small rattlesnakes (massasauga and pygmy) are rarely if ever lethal to humans. The large pit vipers (diamondback, timber or canebrake rattler, and cottonmouth) and the coral snake can be potentially hazardous, but only on rare occasions.

Young rat snakes (left) and brown snakes (right) are two of the many non-venomous snakes that are commonly mistaken for venomous species and needlessly killed. Both of these species are common around human habitatation in the Southeastern U.S.

Venom of the coral snake, a cobra relative, can indeed kill an adult human if enough venom is injected. But coral snakes are small, rare, and unlikely to bite a person unless picked up. A person has a diminishingly small chance of being bitten accidentally by a coral snake. Perhaps the greatest danger is to children who might pick up a brightly colored red, yellow, and black snake.

Children should be taught never to pick up any snake without supervision by a knowledgeable adult. They should also be taught that snakes only bite humans in self-defense and that all snakes deserve our respect. Children should learn that many snakes will strike out when cornered, but they do not come looking for you. No U.S. snake will intentionally pursue a person with intent to harm. No herpetologist has ever verified the " chased by a snake" phenomenon.

Biting is costly for venomous snakes and most use warning behaviors (rattling, mouth-gaping, etc.) to warn a predator beofre striking. The snake pictured is a cottonmouth.

My reptile-hunting associates and I have seen or captured thousands of snakes from the Atlantic to the Pacific. None of us has ever seen an American snake chase someone. I specify " American," because some zookeepers and herpetologists say that African mambas and Asian cobras can take offense at a person's presence and actively attack. Maybe they will, but no evidence of such aggressiveness exists for North American species. The last thing a snake, even a rattlesnake, wants to do is bite an animal too big to eat. Biting, a last resort when escape seems impossible, can be costly to a snake by resulting in broken fangs and lost venom needed to capture prey. A rattlesnake that keeps you away by vibrating its tail is better off than one that has to bite you.

A legitimate snakebite is one in which a person unintentionally and unknowingly provokes a venomous snake and is bitten. The odds of being struck by lightning or being in a car wreck are hundreds of times greater than the odds of receiving a serious legitimate snakebite in the United States.

When someone sees a snake and then tries to catch, kill, or handle it, the bite is illegitimate. Hospital records show that many snakebite victims actually picked up the animal first. We can't place blame on the snake in such instances. Copperheads are one of the few venomous snakes in the country that often bite people who may be unaware of the snake's presence. But copperhead venom is less potent than that of most species, and a bite usually causes minimal damage to the victim.

Snakes are a natural part of the world therefore, snakebite is a possible--though highly improbable--hazard if you venture outdoors. Anyone interested in snakes, which includes almost everyone in one way or another, should check out two Web sites: www.parcplace.org and www.uga.edu/srelherp. Either will teach you a lot about snakes and also link to others on the topic. Thus you can keep informed about what many consider to be America's most prepossessing creatures.
Garter Snake (non-poisonous)                         Copperhead (poisonous)

black rat snake

Venomous snakes and snakes that are just really, really big. Venom, however, is transmitted by the direct action on the part of the predator. There are only about 20 types of venomous snakes in the U.S., out of over 110 species. Venoms of the pit viper contain peptides and proteins. The venom leads to damage of vascular cells and red blood cells.

Viper bites can be deadly and normally are very painful. Elapid bites are extremely lethal and antivenin treatment is a must if bitten. Vipers, rattlesnakes, and other members of the family of snakes known as the 'pit vipers' have special pits located between their eyes and nostrils. The pits are used to sense minute temperature changes as infrared rays, as an aid in locating warm-blooded prey such as rodents.

Snakes are actually responsible for keeping crop yields at an acceptable level and preventing spreading of diseases by killing rats. Snakes such as the non-venomous rat snakes are excellent at doing this. Snakes are found in a huge range of colors, from bright to dull. Brightly colored snakes are usually venomous, their coloration serving as a warning to predators, while dull colored snakes use their coloration for camouflage. Snakes are generally solitary creatures and have little to no interest in humans. In fact, most of the truly venomous snakes do not even make their homes in the United States.

Snakes are beneficial in that they eat pest insects and rodents, helping to control the populations of animals that can be nuisances to humans. Only about one-tenth of all snakes are venomous, and not all of the venomous snakes are dangerous, or even deadly, to humans. Snakes are ectotherms, which means they regulate their body temperature by taking heat from their environment or by giving off heat. Because their body temperature is affected by environmental temperatures and varies with surrounding conditions, snakes are inactive during hot seasons (aestivation) and cold seasons (hibernation). Snakes are an integral part of the food web in any environment. As a predator, they are important in maintaining the fitness of the animals they prey on.

Snakes are most likely to bite when harassed. Consider taking a photograph of the snake if possible to aid in identification. Snakes are found in many parts of California and may pose a hazard for those who work outdoors. Although snakes generally avoid humans or animals, they can attack, particularly if theyre surprised or are protecting their young or territory. Snakes are also sensitive to vibrations and have reasonably good vision.

Snakes are only 1 inch tall, and they’re scared of you! Most snakes are not venomous, but a few are. Snakes are alright.Yes, they can be creapy but if you leave them alone,their go there own way. Just don’t handel the wrong ones. Snakes are undoubtedly the most misunderstood and feared of all animals in the state. This prejudice begins in our early childhood as we watch television programs and read stories that portray the snake as an evil and dangerous adversary, to be routinely avoided or destroyed.

Snakes are a bit tight when it comes to lending money, though their sympathy for others often leads them to offer help. The help will be in kind rather than in cash, however; the Snake is freer with himself than he is with his money! Snakes are very helpful. The small ones eat harmful bugs and insects. Snakes are reptiles, the group of animals that also includes crocodiles, lizards, and turtles. The now-legless snakes evolved millions of years ago from prehistoric lizards that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.

Snakes are ectothermic: which means they get their body heat from external sources. Must avoid extremes in temperatures and hunt preferably during mild conditions. Snakes are probably one of the most misconstrue living things on earth. Their bad reputation goes back to biblical times to the stories of Adam and Eve. Snakes are almost always described as larger than they really are. Stories about New England water snakes eight and ten feet long are simply not true.

Snakes are one of several groups of reptiles. They have long, slender bodies, no legs, no eyelids, no ears, and are covered with back-folded skin sections called scales. Snakes are covered in dry, glistening scales. Many species have a body pattern of various colors, sometimes quite bright. Snakes are an important part of the food chain.

Snakes are cold-blooded and must move to a suitable sur- rounding environment to regulate their body temperature. They can't survive extreme summer heat for more than 10 - 20 minutes and are rarely found in the open. Snakes are captured and kept in suffocating bags, kept in tiny boxes and starved. The snakes' venom ducts are often pierced with a hot needle, which causes the glands to burst. Snakes are an important component of the ecosystem as predators and as prey for other wildlife. They tend to be secretive, and when not searching for food or mates will usually remain hidden.

Snakes are legless, have no external ear opening and are not slimy. About half of our snake lay eggs; half give birth to completely developed young. Snakes are most active at night and during early morning and late evening hours. Snakes are important components of natural ecosystems. Common in many types of habitat, they affect the "balance of nature" as both predators and prey.

Snakes are certainly animals upon which few people are neutral. Some people, including myself, actually love and are positively fascinated by them. Snakes are more quickly excited by sound than sight, because they have poor eyesight and their eyes are on the side of the head. Snakes fight to the death with their enemy the ichneumon.