PATRICK'S DAY MEANS SNAKES ARE ON THE MOVE
things related to March bring snakes to mind. The first is St. Patrick's
Day, March 17. The saint is credited with driving the snakes out of
Ireland. The fact that snakes have never lived on that cold island in
no way discourages people from making a connection between St. Patrick
occasion during March is the spring equinox, which occurs around the
end of the third week. Days get progressively longer than nights, and
both get warmer. Spring officially arrives.
and animals, including snakes, respond to these changes. All U.S. snakes
become more active and more evident, hence a word on behalf of this
fascinating yet bullied wildlife is timely and always warranted.
today have an awareness and concern about the welfare of natural environments
and wildlife, even snakes, and their right to exist in the natural world.
Snakes serve as a barometer of environmental attitudes of people in
a region. An ecologically educated community accepts native snakes as
an integral component of natural environments.
are highly overrated as a threat to humans. Of the more than 50 native
snake species in the East, only seven are venomous. Bites of three pit
vipers (copperhead, pygmy rattler of the South, and massasauga, a small
rattlesnake found in the Midwest) are rarely lethal to humans. Three
larger pit vipers are also found east of the Mississippi River.
venomous snake in North America, and the one with the most potent venom
in the East, is the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, which can reach
a length of over seven feet. Next in size, often over five feet, is
the timber rattler, also called canebrake rattler. More than 40 other
eastern species of snakes are nonvenomous and harmless. Some of them
will not even bite when picked up.
is by far the most common venomous U.S. snake that lives around water.
The bite of a cottonmouth can be bad, but the snake's aggressiveness
is way overrated. Studies have shown that a high proportion of bites
from this species occur when people pick the snake up. Yes, pick the
about the cause and effect in that scenario then see if you can figure
out a way to reduce your odds of getting bitten by a cottonmouth. Also,
most snakes people see around water are nonvenomous watersnakes whose
first response upon seeing a person is to escape.
is the venomous snake most likely to bite someone who is unaware of
the snake's presence. But consider this fact: Copperheads bite more
people every year than any other U.S. snake, yet human deaths from the
bite are exceedingly rare and all have occurred under unusual circumstances.
venom is less potent than that of most other venomous snakes, and a
bite usually causes minimal damage to the victim. A trip to the hospital
or doctor's office is still advisable if you do get bitten.
snake is a venomous species that is entirely different from the six
pit vipers. A cobra relative, an eastern coral snake can indeed kill
an adult human if enough venom is injected. But these multicolored snakes
are rarely seen and are unlikely to bite a person unless picked up.
has ever received an accidental bite from an unseen coral snake, it
was truly a rare event. Perhaps the greatest danger is to children who
might pick up a brightly colored red, yellow, and black snake.
should be taught never to pick up any snake without supervision by a
knowledgeable adult. But they, as well as adults, should learn to enjoy
snakes by watching them. It's more fascinating and a lot safer than
trying to kill them.
case, snakes will be around one way or another from the spring equinox
until the winter solstice, and St. Patrick isn't around to do anything
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