Of all the animals we work with, one of the most misunderstood is the snake. Most people dislike snakes or fear them, many grow up believing that snakes are nasty, slimy, sneaky and evil things. In reality snakes are very beneficial creatures. We should all take the time to learn a little more about them......knowledge can put our fears in perspective.
We received many snake calls last year, most were made by people who believed they were dealing with a poisonous snake. All proved to be harmless milk snakes, garter snakes, or rat snakes. Most of these snakes were poked, prodded and agitated to the point where they were very aggressively trying to defend themselves by striking at their attackers.
Many of these phone calls were made AFTER the people had already killed the snake. It is disheartening to realize that many people's first response to something they don't like or understand is to destroy it. Nothing should have to die because of ignorance.
Most of us spend our whole lives in Ohio without encountering a poisonous snake in the wild. We have 27 or so kinds of snakes in Ohio, only 3 of which are poisonous. Two of these three, the Eastern Timber Rattlesnake and the Massasauga Rattlesnake are endangered and protected. The other poisonous snake native to Ohio is the Copperhead, found mainly in the south-eastern part of the state. None of these snakes are at all likely to be found in north central Ohio.
Snakes are useful in keeping down the rodent population. Snakes are not slimy, they are dry and smooth - quite pleasant to touch. They usually feel cool because their body temperature is the same as their surroundings. Snakes will not attack without provocation and will usually flee from a human presence if given the chance.
People are often too selective in the kinds of animals they feel are worthwhile. We take care of those animals we feel some empathy for or have a use for, making unwarranted judgments as to which species deserve to live. We don't have to love snakes, we just need to realize their importance. They are as deserving of life as any other creature and an important link in the chain of life.
When people call with snake questions we try to encourage open-mindedness and co-existence. Unfortunately this isn't always possible. Last year we got a call from a woman whose children and their friends had cornered a "rattlesnake" on a creek bank, subduing it by hitting it with sticks and then taking it home. She didn't want me to come and get it, she just wanted information about snakes and for me to identify it. Upon questioning it was obvious that the snake was a harmless one, probably a milk snake. (Our three poisonous types of snakes all have common characteristics that are lacking in harmless snakes - pits on the head between eye and nostril & eliptical instead of round pupils in their eyes.) However, she insisted it was a rattlesnake and got very irate with me. I told her she should be glad it wasn't as her children would have been endangered by bothering it. I also advised her to have them leave snakes alone in the future. She hung up on me, then called me back a few hours later to tell me that I was a "rude bitch" because I wouldn't go along with the rattlesnake idea!
Why on earth did she ask for advice and answers if she didn't want them? Thankfully, most people are not like this woman and welcome the chance to be better informed. The more education we have about wildlife, the better chance the snakes, bats and other "unlovables" have of surviving our being around!
Wildlife Haven's Home Page