Click here to learn more.
The first thing most people do when they see a snake in their yard is panic. David Steen would like to suggest an alternative.
"What I like to do is just watch and observe what it's doing," says Steen, a wildlife ecologist and blogger at
Living Alongside Wildlife. "I think watching local wildlife, whether it's a snake or a
bird or any other species, provides a good opportunity to learn about the wildlife surrounding you."
Unlike other wildlife, though, snakes can evoke fear instead of wonder — fear that's usually misplaced.
It may be a cliché, but it's true: Usually a snake is more scared of you than you are of it.
"If you see a snake, it's not going to crawl up to you and bite you," says Steen. "Think about it from the snake's perspective. What can it possibly gain from initiating an attack on a predator that's a hundred times its size?"
And what few people realize is that in the unlikely event that you were bitten, it would probably be no big deal. "I've been bitten by hundreds of nonvenomous snakes and suffered no ill effects except a couple of pinpricks of blood," Steen says. In fact, he says, ask any herpetologist and he'll tell you he'd much rather be bitten by a snake than a mammal — the squirrel bites Steen got while doing wildlife rehab were far more memorable.
Snake bites also don't transmit disease; for instance, snakes don't carry rabies. The only thing you might catch from a snake is salmonella, and you'd have to work at it: "If you're not handling a snake and licking your hands, there's no way you can get sick by one," he says. And unless you live in Florida where exotics like the
Burmese python have become established in the wild, your pets are not at risk from nonvenomous snakes, because the native species aren't big enough to prey on
We know what you're thinking: Fine, but what about the venomous ones? Yes, they're dangerous, but it's important to remember they are in the minority. "Worldwide, there are approximately 3,000 species of snakes, and probably less than 400 are venomous," Steen says. Where he works in Georgia, only 6 out of 42 species are venomous; in many parts of the United States, like the northeast and midwest, the percentage is even smaller.
You're also a lot less likely to actually see venomous snakes because their behavior is different. "Venomous snakes are sit-and-wait predators. Nonvenomous snakes actively look for prey, so you'll see them more often," he says.
Despite those facts, many people will kill any snake they encounter — Steen knows that partly because they send the photos to his blog for identification afterwards. "It's a bizarre reaction," he says. "It's scary to think that people think that way about seeing another creature. What if it was a
cat, or even a cardinal; can you imagine saying 'kill it?' The reality is, it's just another animal."
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
Six Doberman mix dogs returned to the
animal shelter that cared for them to
celebrate their first year of life.
A coyote named Vern is on the mend
after getting hit by a car and becoming
stuck in the vehicle's grill.
Heading to the animal shelter to look for
an adoptable pet? Here’s a step-by-step
guide to help you with the…
From apples to carrots, Dr. Avi Blake
reveals the best and worst fruits and
vegetables you can feed your animal.
Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Wailani Sung
explains why this habit may seem strange
to you — but perfectly normal to…
Senior Draven Rodriguez reached a
compromise with his school about the
laser-cat yearbook portrait that went viral.
The gentle Persian, who's the most popular pedigreed cat in North America, is happiest when she’s gazing up at you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.