In praise of snakes.

Prairie rattlesnake Carson County Texas

I grew up in Florida and have been catching and studying snakes as long as I can remember.  They have never been intimidating to me but rather  I  have always found them fascinating.  Archie Carr, a naturalist and herpetologist in Florida wrote an essay titled “in praise of snakes”.  In the essay, he states that “I want to speak on behalf of snakes.  I live in snake country, and have always liked snakes and have kept them steadily on my mind”.  For a person that has been catching snakes as long as I can remember, and most of these in Florida where I grew up, I feel a kinship with Archie. The above video shows a prairie rattlesnake we photographed at PANTEX on Thursday (Carson County Texas).  Prairies are grumpy snakes and there is no other way to say it.  They will rattle and tend to stand their ground while diamondbacks, in my experience, tend to try to get away as soon as they can.  Don’t get me wrong, prairie rattlesnakes will not come after you but tend to take up a defensive position and stand their ground.  At the end of the video is a picture Jimmy Walker took of the snake trying to crawl under my tripod and me.  This wasn’t an aggressive move, the snake was simply seeking cover.  People tend to be rather hard on snakes and I have met many that kill them on sight.  The truth of the matter is that there are many common animals that are much more dangerous than venomous snakes.  Wildlife biologists spend a lot of time in the field and therefore are likely to encounter snakes.  The leading cause of death for wildlife biologists is vehicle accidents and the most dangerous animal encountered by wildlifers are people.  Snakes do not even show up on the list of causes of mortality for wildlife biologists.  Actually, bees kill more people each year than snakes and your neighbor’s dog is likely to be more dangerous than venomous snakes.  For some reason, snakes have a very bad reputation and I think this is far more related to fear and a lack of understanding than it is on reality. Give snakes a break, they eat rodents and are an important part of the ecosystem.  Additionally, they are beautiful animals and you will see this if you can overcome the fear that many people suffer from when it comes to snakes.

10 thoughts on “In praise of snakes.

  1. As far as I know, Slowinski is the only herpetologist or biologist killed in the field by a venomous snake…out of all the man hours of contact every year for the last 100 years that’s it.
    I’d love to field herp Pantex–all that terrain! Too bad security is so tight. I have a hunch they wouldn’t let me out of the car, let alone set up tin lines.

    • Paul. They are pretty serious about security out there and take the use of deadly force to heart. If the abundant prairie rattlesnakes dont get you, the guards sure would 🙂

      • Yeah 😦 I need to find a place to set up real board lines and tin lines around here though. I do OK for myself just hiking and road cruising, but I want to do some actual board lines…hopefully they could help with Lampropeltis. We have three species here and I’ve only found one of them (L. getula splendida x holbrooki). And even that one is rare for me to find.

      • Yep, I’m still here. Never made it back up north to the Rockies or further south back to the swamps. Came here for college and wound up not leaving…

      • Paul, Pantex has loads and loads of data on snakes. This includes nearly a decade of work with WTAMU… herp arrays, intensive searches, radio-tracking, etc. There is probably not a site in the Panhandle that snakes have been studied so heavily.

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