Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer, Slippery, Slimy, Slithering...S's a snake...albeit a little green one!  Still, the warm weather is upon us and those cold blooded creatures are making their presence known.  At the pool yesterday a tiny garter snake crawled out of the skimmer onto a lady who exited the pool in record time!!

It created quite a scene for a few minutes!

So, I decided to include this article I wrote on the subject.  Hope you enjoy it!


OKAY,  I really don’t have to finish the title.  Most of you already know what’s coming….snakes!  It is interesting how many people actually believe that snakes are slimy and slippery, as they are neither.  I also know that a whole lot of you out there don’t want to touch one to find out!  A snakes skin is made up of shiny, lustrous scales which may appear wet.  In reality the skin feels like a leather belt or a pair of patent leather shoes.  It is smooth, dry, silky and satiny smooth, not slimy.

Many people associate snakes with the Devil, after all wasn’t he referred to as the “serpent” in the Bible?  Snakes have a bad reputation, but actually serve an important role in the ecological picture as a whole.  It may seem hard to believe, but snakes do have  many enemies. Large birds, wild boars, mongooses, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and even other snakes are a few of the dangers snakes fall prey to. Many people find it surprising that the largest and the scariest snakes can be afraid of anything, but it is true. While they are young they are easy prey to many birds and mammals and when they are older and larger they have humans to fear.

So, snakes have things to be afraid of too. I can't tell you how many times I have seen people chop the head off a black snake with a shovel or hoe, or try to run over them on the road.  But,  those positively gigantic black snakes that used to hang around my grandfathers tobacco barns and corncribs kept the rats at bay and protected the corn from decimation.  I’ll admit, however, at having been startled by more than one or two of those rascals.

Having grown up in Maryland near the Potomac River I am also well acquainted with the aggressive nature of the Water Moccasin.  Once, while crabbing in the local creek in a small rowboat, a water moccasin raised it’s ugly head off the surface and started to charge our boat!  Since I really didn’t want his company, I picked up an oar and slapped his head so hard he went flying twenty feet away!  Ugh…don’t like those particular snakes at all.  Maryland was also home to more than a few Copperheads, which are also quite aggressive (what is it with those Maryland snakes?), but I never managed to meet one face to face.

When I moved to Florida, I knew I would be facing a whole new set of snakes to learn about. Pigmy rattlers, regular rattlers, coral snakes, and a host of others.  My first encounter was with a tiny green garter snake stretched out along the top of a row of boxwoods at my front door.  He was little guy less than 12 inches long and a pretty green color.  I didn’t see him as a threat and let him go on his merry way.  My neighbors found a six foot rattlesnake in the hole which was being dug in their back yard for a pool.  That was ugly!

On another occasion,  a red, yellow and black snake about the same length as the garter snake had been, came crawling across my family room carpet one night!  I kept running the ditty through my head, red next to yellow kill a fellow, or was it red next to black dangerous jack!?  I decided not to take a chance and ran into the kitchen and grabbed a large stainless steel bowl and placed over the creature.  Then I had to decide how to dispose of him.  I went back into the kitchen and got two large butcher knives.  Quickly lifting the bowl, I dispatched him by dicing him into one inch pieces!  (Fortunately my carpet was dark brown and I didn't have to worry about stains.)  I was the only adult in the house at the time the incident above occurred, and I was not about to let the little critter creep under the furniture and disappear.  In most instances, however, it is not a good idea to kill snakes unless you or a family member are in imminent danger. Do not kill a snake thinking you are a hero, doing the World a service, because you are not.

While I only had one other encounter with a snake during my time in Florida, it isn’t one I will ever forget.  It had been a particularly hot afternoon, and I decided to take a dip in the pool.  As I entered the screen-enclosed pool, a medium sized brownish black snake raised up off the surface and fanned out it’s head and started across the pool toward me!  I knew cobras were not native to Florida, but I had never seen anything like this except in picture books, and for all the world that thing looked like a cobra. I wasn’t taking any chances just in case someone had lost their “pet.”

I made a quick retreat back into the house and started to ponder how I could get this critter out of my pool.  Once again, I was the only adult at home.  After a few minutes of wrestling with the dilemma, I decided to call the local zoo.  I knew they had a snake exhibit, and perhaps I could find someone there willing to help me.  It took a lot of convincing, but I finally got one of the zoo employees to agree to come out.  There was one catch, however.  He would use the snake hook, but I had to hold the bag!  Geeeessshhh.   Well, so be it.  What other option did I have?

The fellow arrived about ten minutes later, and within another ten we had captured the snake and put it in his car to take to the zoo for identification.  He called me a couple days later and told me the snake was not dangerous, probably a hog nosed or puff adder of the non-venomous type and they had released it back into the wild.  Good grief, I only hoped it was far enough away that I didn’t see it again. So there you have it, all my experiences with snakes.  I live in Georgia now, and they have their share of slithering snakes too, including those copperheads and water moccasins, but I hope I don't meet have the opportunity to meet any.

Here are just a few interesting facts about snakes:  they are all deaf to air born sounds.  They do pick up vibrations through their jawbones and on the scent molecules along their tongue.  Most snakes have over 200 teeth.  They use these teeth to hold their prey while eating.  They cannot chew with them because they are pointing backwards but they can certainly bite!   

Slippery and slimy they are not.  Important ecologically, they are, and even though you might not like them, please avoid killing them unnecessarily. 

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