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What is it in particular that scares you about them? Did you have bad experiences as a child? It's unfortunate so many people fear or hate snakes, they are truly magnificent animals. Texas in particular has some very interesting species... One of the most beautiful snakes in the United States, the harmless Speckled Racer, is found only in the Brownsville area (though its range extends down to Central America outside the US).
If you can muster up the courage to look at a photo of this species, I would definitely recommend it because they are really a sight to behold. So you know what to expect, they are long and slender, with a black base color and an electric turquoise-blue spot on each scale:
I kept a 6ft boa constrictor in my high school biology room. He provided a wonderful opportunity for many students to get over their fears. However, I remember the day an adult male refused to walk in and meet Gibraltor. He explained that he was the youngest of 4 boys and in their childhood, which took place in rattlesnake country, his brothers would dig a pit, toss in a rattler or two, and then suspend this fellow by his ankles over the snakes. That man came by his fear quite honestly and I felt no need to try to talk him or shame him out of it. Lordy lordy!
I give snakes a lot of respect as part of being a good steward of the Earth but I wish they had legs. I think that is what freaks me out.
I was saddened at work one day while looking out the window 5 floors down to the parking lot as the freight-delivery-company-that-will-not-be-named driver was instructed by my co-worker to drive over the curb to run over a HUGE black snake, which they did. It was unnecessary and ridiculous and they should all be ashamed. The truck went back and forth a couple of times because the snake didn't die instantly.
I found what turned out to be a gopher snake in my garden. It was tangled in a pile of bird netting. After determining it was not a rattlesnake (we do get those) and that it was still alive, my neighbor and DD performed a net-ectomy, carefully clipping the constraining net from his body and lastly from in and around his mouth. We then gave him a drink of water (he was thirsty) and cleared a gopher hole for him and sent him on his way. I haven't seen him again, but need him to take care of business on another side of the yard where the cheeky gophers even let themselves be seen!
Thanks for a great article, Palmbob!
So many people have bad childhood memories related to snakes. I'm glad to be an exception to that rule. I love snakes and insects but failed miserably at raising my son to be a "snakeophile".
All the hard work I had done up until then was undone in less than fifteen minutes one day when his grandpa, a NW Oklahoma rancher with bad childhood memories of rattlesnakes, slammed on his breaks of his pickup in the middle of a dirt road, jumped out, grabbed a shovel, and beat a snake to death in front of the poor four-year-old.
Come to find out, it was a big old king snake, which was a real shame.
The emotion of the experience just stuck like glue to my son.
Adults really should try to avoid passing their fears on to kids. I've tried all my life to face and conquer my fears and not be ruled by them. That isn't easy, but triumphing over a fear is the very best feeling ever!
wannadanc, that poor guy's story is the best evidence of the need for anti-bullying campaigns I've ever read!
Palmbob, thank you for doing a public service with an informative and interesting article. I wish you weren't "preaching to the choir" with it -- makes me sick the way so many here in south Georgia kill snakes without even bothering to know what kind they are.
True story: I was new to South Florida (from Michigan), and stopped on a country road to shoo a big Black Snake across so it wouldn't get run over. The black snake turned around and hissed at me with it's white cottonmouth, and proceeded to shoo ME right back to the truck! Gotta respect those pit vipers.
I still can't tell if snake fear is learned or instinctual but I strongly suspect the former. I have loved snakes every since I was small enough to walk. The rest of my family put up with my constantly bringing snakes home and letting them go in the yard, but no one else ended up with my fascination for things like this. My sisters and parents were obviously not afraid of them, but they didn't really care a whole lot about them either way. Sisters would show a brief interest when I got a new one, carry it around for a while, show friends (also none which I recall being afraid of them) and my mom would even bring them home now and then from her daily hikes knowing I would be grateful, but never encouraged me to keep them any length of time. I recall in grade school passing snakes around in class and having all the kids pet them and talk about them. It was an anomly to find someone who actually seemed afraid of them. But as I got older, I discovered there were more and more people who were terrified of them. Interestingly, in college, I noticed that almost no one from other countries seemed nervous about them, despite many coming from countries full of cobras, kraits and vipers. Now that I am older and have an exwife and current wife both absolutely terrified of snakes that I finally get a glimpse into that sort of terror that was completely lacking from my childhood experiences. I wonder what has changed...
I don't remember ever having a big experience with snakes. About twenty years ago we did have one in the house in the middle of the day. Needless to say they could hear my screams a mile away. DH managed to kill it because we couldn't get it turn around and go back out. About 4 feet long with markings of a rattler but no rattles. Someone told us it was a chicken/rat snake. Smelled to high heaven. I have left lights on all over the house ever since. If I have to get up in the middle of the night, I don't want a surprise.