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Year of the Snake Designation Raises Awareness about Snake Conservation: Debunking Six Common Snake Myths with Commission Herpetologist Jeff Hall

Jan 22

Written by:
1/22/2013 12:32 PM  RssIcon

2013 is the Year of the Snake, both on the Chinese calendar and as designated by Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, an organization dedicated to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians.

PARC designated 2013 as the Year of the Snake to help raise awareness about these truly magnificent animals and the threats and human perceptions that contribute to their decline.

Perhaps no other animal on this planet is as maligned as the snake, mostly due to the many, varied and often comical misconceptions people have about snakes. Jeff Hall, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission who is also the coordinator of the N.C. chapter of PARC, is here to dispel a few common myths about snakes.

Snakes are slimy.This is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about snakes and the answer is, no, they’re not. In fact, they are dry and usually cool to the touch.

All snakes bite.Well, anything with a mouth can bite, but unless you try to pick one up or accidentally step on one then your chances of being bitten by a snake are relatively small. Some of our smaller snakes, such as the worm snake and the brown snake, have mouths that are too small to really bite anything. Unless you’re a worm.

All snakes in North Carolina are poisonous. Well, no. No snake is poisonous (something that is poisonous needs to be ingested to take effect), although some snakes in North Carolina are venomous. Out of the 37 species of snakes that are native to North Carolina, only six of them are venomous and out of those six, only one is found throughout the state and the one most people will encounter, the copperhead. Our three rattlesnake species, the diamondback, timber and pigmy,are found only in certain parts of the state, mostly in wooded areas. The cottonmouth is found in the eastern part of the state, typically in marshy, wet areas. And the coral snake is so rare that most people will never run across one.

Snakes like to chase peopleNo. Snakes don’t chase people. Why would they? Snakes don’t eat people so there’s no reason fort hem to waste their venom, not to mention, their energy, on something that they’re not going to eat. Snakes bite for only a few reasons – to get away from danger, protect themselves or to eat.

Venomous snakes have triangular headsWell, not so much. While lots of folks think that if the head is triangular the snake must be venomous, this just isn’t true. Some non-venomous snakes, for instance red-belly watersnakes, will flatten their heads giving a triangular appearance.Unfortunately, a lot of snakes are killed needlessly because someone thought they were venomous when, in fact, they were harmless black snakes (such as black rat snakes or black racers) or water snakes.

Milk snakes got their name because they suck the milk from cows’ udders. No snake, not even the milk snake, can suck milk from cows’ udders. They don’t have the required anatomy to “suck” on anything. There are lots of variations of this kind of myth that play on how a snake got its name. Corn snakes got their name because they like to eat corn, also not true. A coachwhip will chase a person down and whip him to death. Again, not true. But entertaining.

What is true about snakes is that all snakes, even the venomous ones, are good snakes. Snakes are not out to “get” people, and in fact, serve an important niche in our ecosystem. They provide food for other animals, such as birds of prey, foxes, even other snakes. In turn, they are excellent hunters of mice and other rodents, which can be health hazards to humans.

So, whether you fear or revere snakes, you should respect their presence in our world and leave them be.

If you would like more information about the Year of Snake,including how to purchase a 2013 calendar as well as a downloadable State of the Snake brochure, visit PARC’s website.

1 comment(s) so far...

Re: Year of the Snake Designation Raises Awareness about Snake Conservation: Debunking Six Common Snake Myths with Commission Herpetologist Jeff Hall

I agree with all but one which I know to be true because it has happened to me. I have been CHASED on several occasions by black snakes and once by a cottonmouth. It may not be logical to you but it still happens.

By Alan Mizelle on   1/22/2013 4:46 PM

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