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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ever ran across a Snake in your Garden?

We all have to learn how to live a little closer to nature; trading sidewalks for somewhat starrier nights, bus fumes for barbecues and traffic meters for mall parking. As a green-minded citizen of mother earth, I also realize that living here is a privilege and that many mammals, birds and yes, even reptiles have been displaced from their natural habitats because of man's penchant for urban sprawl. I still gasp when I see a snake, but I've learned not  be fearful, nor to associate all snakes with the devil; in fact, I've learned to say, “Hi there little friend”, even if he or she isn't very little.
Compare the venomous Coral Snake to the harmless Milk Snake.
Milk snake (left) & coral snake (right). Image courtesy of the West Texas ...








Good Snakes/Bad Snakes

from top left): coral snake, rattlesnake, water moccasin, copperhead.
Frankly speaking, there are no “bad” snakes just as there are no “evil” animals on our planet (although some homo-sapiens are still under scrutiny). There are venomous snakes that pose a significant danger to humans should the snake be surprised or disturbed, but the fact remains, out of approximately 120 species of snakes in North America, I listed the four most common of them here in Florida  that are venomous. They are the Rattlesnake, the Water Moccasin (Cottonmouth), the Copperhead, and the Coral Snake.

Snakes can be tricky to identify, but you should know that all of North America’s venomous serpents except for the coral snake have vertical pupils, so if you spot a snake with “cats” eyes, it's a good idea to keep away. Coral snakes have round pupils and they  have colors similar to some milk snakes and scarlet king snakes.  Farmers have a saying when it comes to identifying coral snakes, “Red next to yellow, kill a fellow. Red next to black, venom lack.” I'd still call a professional if I saw a red, yellow and black striped snake.
The truth, is that unless you are a herpetologist there's no simple way to identify a venomous snake. The best way to check whether a snake is venomous is to compare the snake in your garden to photos of venomous snakes in your area. Just Google “venomous snakes of (your state).” You can also call your local County Extension Office.My divider bar below displays pictures of North America's venomous snakes.

What Do You Do if You See a Snake?

If you live in North America and run across a snake while gardening or taking out the garbage, or doing anything else around your home, don't panic; chances are your reptilian visitor is harmless. In any case, a snake is more interested in taking a bite out of a nice fat rodent than he is in biting you. Unless you keep pet mice or hamsters as pets, it is highly unlikely you smell like dinner to a snake.

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