Friday, February 25, 2011

I touched a snake

Snakes have always given me the heebie jeebies.  The way they move and flick their tongues out have always been menacing to me.  Its truly subconscious.  I had dreams for most of my life in which I was walking down this road and there were snakes everywhere and I had to watch where I stepped for fear of getting bitten.  As a young boy I saw a Black Rat Snake eating a field mouse and freaked!  I literally ran a quarter mile to my Grandma's house screaming all the way.  What a dope!

Great Plains Rat Snake, Courtesy MDC
So, today I touched a snake.  It was a Great Plains Rat Snake, about 3 feet long.  It wasn't venomous, nor did it try to bite me.  It actually held still when I stroked its underbelly feeling the scales it uses to move forward.  It wasn't slimy, it didn't hiss at me.  It just sat there.  It was a tame snake and is often used in programs to teach children and adults about snakes.

Snakes are much maligned creatures.  They don't deserve their reputations and they truly are more afraid of you than you are of them.  There are 46 species or subspecies of snakes in Missouri and only 5 are poisonous. Only one snake, the Copperhead is commonly encountered.  Few people in Missouri ever get bitten by a venomous snake and more people die of lightning strikes each year than die of snake bite.  I've heard that most people get bit by snakes because they do something stupid, like grab the snake.

  For the most part if you watch where you walk and place your hands you'll never have a problem with snakes.  Snakes will try and get away from you if they can rather than bite.  They only bite when they have no other choice.  Snakes are actually beneficial in that they help control rodent populations.  If you encounter a non-venomous snake use a long handled tool such as a hoe or shovel to carry them to an isolated and safe habitat to be released.


  1. You are braver than me! I used to have nightmares that the folds in my bedspread were snakes....eeesh! You're right, though. They're just living life like the rest of us. I will try to look on one with a bit more love next time. :)

  2. Good post Scott. Isn't it interesting to consider the extent to which our fears and aversions are based on nature and nurture. And, how and why they are modified through exposure, knowledge and conditioning.

  3. Awesome for you Scott, there is very little that feels as good as taking steps towards conquering our fears. I faced my fear of spiders and although it took me three years and constant spider exposure I am finally over my arachnophobia. In fact I now own 3 tarantulas and plan to purchase a few more.
    I think it is great you were will to remain open minded and touch that snake and have a willingness to see their over all importance in the environment. I wish I could have seen Brooke's presentation, I bet she did great, she is truly a remarkable young lady.

  4. Snakes and spiders... This is purely unscientific speculation, but I think there is something "hardwired" into human consciousness concerning these two critters. I'm ambivalent toward both. I don't have any deep affection nor fear for either. My wife is a different story. She doesn't have any problems with insects and spiders, but is phobic about snakes. I can more easily imagine her flapping her arms and flying than I can imagine her actually touching a snake. Good for you, Scott!