Sunday, November 28, 2010

Please Do Not Pick Up Snakes

On Pit Bulls and Parolees a parolee tried to grab a snake thinking he was a gopher snake. You never do this unless you know the snake is a gopher snake. Assume the snake is a rattler, until proven otherwise.

It is not hard to discern a rattlesnake from a gopher snake if you are familiar with both species. Most people are not. I've only had the privilege of learning the difference because I worked in a high-snake area for several years. We would catch and release between 15-30 rattlesnakes a year.

Gopher snakes are constrictors, that's how they kill their prey. I've personally experienced their strength when I was forced to hand-catch a 4' gopher stuck behind the chicken's hose. When I pulled him out, he wrapped himself snugly around my arm, requiring another staff member to prise him off so we could place him elsewhere. Not generally how I handle snakes (which is to say, I avoid it).

Gopher snakes act like rattlesnakes, though. This gets them killed. People are afraid of rattlesnakes and instead of respecting them as integral aspects of a healthy bio-system, they kill them. I find this unfortunate. Gopher snakes are killed because they coil up like a rattlesnake and rattle like them too. Some of the more aggressive gophers will strike. It's a good predator deterrent, except in the case of humans.

You can see the difference between gophers and rattlers here.

Gophers have very narrow heads, while rattlers have broad, triangular shaped heads. The safest way to tell them apart is to just leave them alone. :)

Rattlesnakes will avoid biting you for as long as they can. Most want nothing to do with you - it's us who seem hell-bent on wanting something to do with them. Like gophers, they have a key role to play in their environment. Yes, it is important to remove them from the vicinity of animals, for the safety of the snakes, you and your companion animals. Call a professional who does not kill the snakes or consider learning how to safely catch and release a snake from an expert.

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