Thursday, April 16, 2015

Avoiding A Close Encounter With A Snake

Olivia Wright and Kitty, her boa constrictor. Wright, who loves reptiles, offers tips for those who don't share her passion. She says Kitty is "a real sweetheart."

By Olivia Wright
Junior Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tennessee, U.S.A. – Spring is a season of sun, flowers, April showers, and ... reptiles.
After months of brumation, or dormancy, they are just as eager as we are for some
warm weather. And spring is the time of year when people and snakes most often cross paths.
 
I’ve learned how to navigate the outdoors safely, both for your sake and for the sake of our snake friends.

I come from a household with two biology major parents and a reptile loving mother. Thanks to my upbringing, I learned about reptiles and amphibians, went reptile hunting and housed a lot of rescued reptiles growing up.
When I was three I had my first pet, a bearded dragon named Rocky.
Rocky was my introduction into the world of reptiles, and a loving pet for nine years.
When I was about four, I saw The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, on television. I was immediately mesmerized. The way he handled the beauties inspired me, and I wanted nothing more than to be a crocodile hunter myself.
A bearded dragon was my first pet, but not my only herp, or reptile. From milk snake to corn snake, to iguana to gecko, reptiles have always been a staple in my life.
At the age of nine, I got my first reptile field guide as a gift, and one day later I had read through the whole book. I took it upon myself to learn everything about the animals I loved so much, and still pick it up almost daily to flip through the worn out pages.
At 10 I started field herpetology, and just like when I was given my first lizard, I was in love. Being able to go on little adventures and getting to find my favorite animals in their natural habitat was absolutely exhilarating.
Reptile lovers like me are excited for spring, which is a great time for field herpetology.
But not everyone is eager for a close encounter – and lots of people are afraid of snakes – so here are some tips and tricks based on my years of experience and research, that I hope will help you enjoy spring without harming any reptiles.
Let's start with the basics. Take big steps while walking. What snakes don't have in hearing and seeing, they make up for in sensing vibrations.
Snakes have an inner ear with a more than sensitive cochlea, making them able to sense their prey. By taking large steps, you are able to warn off the snakes, giving them time to slither away.
Get to know the snakes in your area. Know where they are located and whether or not they are venomous.
You should learn this not only to make yourself aware of certain places you may want to avoid, but also to help understand these animals a bit more.
Knowledge is the greatest enemy of fear.
Wear shoes when outside, preferably boots. If a snake were to strike, their target would likely be your ankles or calves. This small safety precaution will make a bite feel non-existent.
Lastly, try to change your mindset.
When given the chance, snakes can be magnificent and lovely creatures. In most situations, snakes do more good than harm.
Even venomous snakes have value. Right now medicines aimed at treating disease are being derived by hemotoxins from snakes.
There's nothing to be ashamed about if you are afraid, though.
Everyone has fears, and you don't have to let yours define you. With certain precautions, you can be on your way to feeling more comfortable in the world we share with reptiles.
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