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Norwich Bulletin - 1/11/2009

Snakes!

It’s no secret that snakes have always gotten a bad rap. Beginning long ago with Adam and Eve, the serpent is the evil one, causing humans to go down the path of sin. Vipers are synonymous with the devil and usually belong to the villains in both movies and comic books. I mean, really, when is the last time you saw a super hero with a snake by his side? And movies like Indiana Jones certainly concentrate on those scary scenes involving multiple snakes. So it isn’t any wonder why we are brought up to fear, and even hate, snakes.

Even though Connecticut has only a few poisonous snakes, we view each one as a potential killer. Even those humans who keep pythons and other snakes as “pets” tend to have a rather morbid fascination of them. Growing up, I was no different from the rest of the general public. And as a teenager (a long, long time ago) in Marlborough, Connecticut, we didn’t know about keeping cats indoors, and we lost an elderly cat to a Copperhead bite. Throughout the years, Precious had always brought home dead snakes as offerings to us; but one day, the snake proved to be too fast. By the time my parents realized what had happened, it was too late. My little cat was dead, and my fear of snakes continued to grow.

I personally do not believe that snakes and other reptiles should be kept in little “glass houses.” They deserve to be free in whatever state or country they are native to. Why anyone would want to own a boa constrictor that could conceivable grow large enough to literally squeeze you to death, is beyond me.

I became aquainted with a Native American woman who rescued snakes and reconditioned them so they could be returned to the wild. I learned that they are not cold and slimy and that some of them were quite friendly. I will admit the first time that her black snake slithered up my arm and settled itself around my neck, I was a bit freaked out, but I have since come to respect and appreciate the good that snakes do. I think I like rodents less than snakes, so the fact that mice and rats are a staple to a serpent’s diet, gives me a more positive outlook on the snake. And the venom of several species of poisonous snakes do help in research to cure a variety of diseases.

However, it is still worrisome that cats and dogs can still become victims of snakebite. It is not common, but we all need to know what to do. Cats are actually three times less sensitive to most snake venoms than dogs, and are less likely to receive the full force of the strike, due to their greater agility. But, that does not mean they can’t die and you never know when tragedy will strike. A cat show exhibitor and breeder in Australia was using a misting system in her cattery. Snakes can get through the smallest places and will flatten themselves to do so. The water from the misting brought the young poisonous Dugite snake in and her beautiful Abyssinian boy was bitten. He spent four weeks in the intensive care unit. Luckily she saw what happened and they knew which anti-venom was needed.

We need to learn about the snakes that are common in the area we live in (in Connecticut it is primarily rattler snakes and copperheads). We need to know what they look like so that we don’t panic and kill harmless Garter snakes who keep the rodents out of our gardens – and we need to recognize those snakes that are potentially harmful to us and to our pets.

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