As many of you know, the only thing I love more (or as much) as insects is SNAKES! I've had a fascination with them since I was a little girl. I recall once when I was about 14 my younger brother Marty brought a garter snake into the house, unbeknown st to our mother, who is terrified of snakes. The snake lasted about one day in its enclosure before escaping. My brother came and found me to inform me that I HAD to help him find the snake BEFORE mom found out it was gone. I suppose this was especially important since she didn't know a snake was in the house to begin with. I agreed to help him. So we began our covert mission, trying to be as quiet (OK..... Sneaky) as we could be. Apparently when kids are whispering and sneaking around from room to room that is evidence that something is up. Mom yelled at both of us and wanted to know what we were up to. I looked at Marty and he looked at me......and.....well.... I caved, I told her everything. You never saw someone jump as high as she did, and she did the most graceful landing right in the middle of the kitchen table you would ever see. She DEMANDED we find that snake IMMEDIATELY! Well heck, that's what we'd been trying to do when she detained us. That snake could be anywhere. Finally it dawned on me that I had hamsters....and they look surprisingly like mice. Snakes eat mice......so the snake had to be in my room. Sure enough, that sneaky snake was laid out behind one of my hamster cages, flicking its tongue in anticipation. I am not sure who saw who first, because as soon as we walked towards the snake, it bolted off the desk, onto the floor and disappeared into my closet. I was not the neatest kid on the block....and that closet was down right scary. I think the door was the only thing holding the contents in. After dragging as much stuff out of the closet as we could, we cornered the snake.
Now....I'm not sure if you all realize this, but a cornered garter snake is not much different than any other cornered animal. That snake came out fighting, lunging.....open mouthed, and bent on scaring the hell out of us. My brother was very helpful....as he stood behind me yelling...."well go on catch it!"
It was then that I realized my brother was as scared of the snake as our mom! I accused him of being a chicken.....and all he said was "SO?" It took several minutes and numerous attempts before I finally caught the snake. Marty fetched a brown paper bag to put it in and he walked it up the road to an abandoned field. When he got back, and mom got done scolding him for bringing a nasty vile creature into the house, I had the chance to ask him how it got out in the first place. He took me into his room, with a puzzled look on his face and said "I don't know, I had it in this large jar and made sure to put a paper towel over it" I nearly died laughing.
I've had many other interesting experiences with snakes and each one as reinforced my love of them. Recently I joined a group of conservation minded individuals called the RARR (Rise against rattlesnake roundups). This group is trying to bring about necessary changes to the way rattlesnake roundups are being done. Numerous (1,000's) of rattlesnakes are removed from their natural habitat and thrown into buckets and boxes.
They are transported to the event, where they are often frozen for several hours to allow for easier handling when they sew their mouths shut. These snakes with their sewn mouths are then passed around from person to person to have their picture taken with for a fee. These snakes die from stress within hours. Many of the snakes are skinned while still clinging to life and sold by the pound. The snakes are exposed to the elements and left in the sun with no water or shelter. Many snakes die from exposure alone. The officials that run the roundups claim they hold the event to control an overpopulation of rattlers. They want to make it a safer environment for people. This all sounds upstanding and full of good intentions, until you find out that they are shipping snakes in from Texas and other areas. If they are so overrun with venomous snakes, then why bring more into the state? It is obvious the snake populations are plummeting and they can no longer find them in large concentrations. Many snake hunters will locate a den site of hibernating rattlesnakes and gas out or burn out the snakes. They are able to remove many many snakes in one fell swoop. Rattlesnakes only mate every other year and they do not have large litters when they do. It is very easy to hunt these snakes to the point of extinction. Many counties throughout these snakes range our now free of rattlesnakes.
Missouri traditionally could claim that timber rattlesnakes were found in every county in the state.....not anymore. There are more counties without timbers than with them. The few that have them remaining are showing signs of reduced numbers. We as humans have to stop our way of thinking when it comes to creatures that we do not understand, or like, or that make us fearful. We have no moral right to try and remove every animal that we deem unworthy of existence. No one will argue that snakes aren't cuddly or cute. Snakes can be creepy, simply because they are so different from 4 legged mammals. These differences should be respected and we should try to understand that snakes serve a vital role in the habitats where they are found. Killing them out only causes an unbalance in that ecosystem.
I am proud to be a part of a group that is working so hard to protect a species that many find unworthy of our consideration. As part of my involvement with this group I created a new blog entitled Rattlesnake Education and Awareness. My hope is that like me, many of you like the creepy side of nature. The side of nature that is often misunderstood. The side of nature, that makes nature and being outdoors so much more interesting. Please take time to visit the blog, become a follower and help us support the ongoing effort to educate the public. Hopefully through education we can all become better informed and make wiser decisions where wildlife is concerned.
If anyone is interested in contributing content to the new blog, just email me. We will be happy to have writers come on board and share their reptile (and amphibian) experiences with our followers.