Stop Killing Snakes Because They Scare You

One Writer

Would it be ok to do this to other animals?

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Snake Season

It is snake season and I am a chicken-momma. This time of year, we have several snake encounters. Snakes will find their way into the chicken pens and kill the baby chicks or eat the eggs. But as bothersome and upsetting as this may be we adhere to a strict no-kill snake policy on my property. I have probably relocated dozens of snakes over the years to protect my baby chicks or to simply get the snakes to a safer area where they are less likely to be killed by humans.

We Shouldn’t Kill Things Because They Scare Us

One good scroll through Facebook this time of year and it is apparent that not all people care to let snakes go on their way and insist on killing them regardless of their imminent threat. One such friend this week posted a video of a headless copperhead snake writhing on their sidewalk boasting that they’d killed it. It took me several days to get that terrible image out of my head.

While venomous snake encounters can be terrifying, we can simply give the snake a wide berth and stay at a safe distance. A quick blast of cold water from the water hose is enough to encourage the snake to move on its way.

A second post from the same friend showed a dead rat snake. The comments on that post were along the lines of “Oh, my gosh I am glad you are ok!” “No good snake but a dead snake” and “we’ll kill any more we see until we are safe,” minus the expletives and horrid jokes, you get the gist. Why do we feel as humans that we need to kill anything that is scary to us? No amount of convincing on my part changed the minds of the dozens of commenters saying it was a water moccasin and that they had narrowly escaped death.

Snakes play a very important roll to our environmental health.

Smaller snake breeds keep populations of frogs and earthworms in check while larger ones manage populations of potentially disease-carrying mice and rats. Snakes are an important part of the diets of many raptor birds as well.

Also, did you know that research is being done on the copperhead venom as a treatment for breast cancer? Or that you are less likely statistically to suffer a deadly snake bite than be struck by lightning?

Learn more about the snakes in your area.

Few people take the time to learn how to properly identify the venomous snakes in their area. In my area, North Carolina is home to six varieties of venomous snake: the copperhead, the cottonmouth (water moccasin), the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the pigmy rattlesnake, the timber rattlesnake, and the rare eastern coral snake.

The most misidentified is the water moccasin which is mimicked in nature by other similarly marked water snakes. The banded water snake looks similar and will flatten its head to try and look more intimidating when it feels threatened. But the water moccasin has a very distinct body shape that can be identified with a little effort to learn about its features. The water moccasin is a very stout, thick-bodied snake, often dark grayish in color with a distinct pattern that looks like sets of parentheses with a dot in the center. Their bodies narrow drastically at the tail. They have a large blocky head that is flat on top and narrow elliptical eyes.

Non-venomous snakes, by contrast, have narrow heads and very round eyes. Many water snakes are killed every year because they are misidentified as water moccasins. Take some time to learn the difference between water snake varieties in your area and your next trip to the lake or the river will be a lot less intimidating. Most snakes are perfectly content to put distance between themselves and you if you just give them a measure of space to do so.

The best way to handle a snake encounter is to simply move away from the snake and allow it to move along. If you have a venomous snake on your property call animal control to find someone local who can come and remove the snake for you. Killing it is risky to your own safety and detrimental to the environmental health of our community.

I think we humans can rise above our fear and do what is right for the health of the natural community. There are lots of scary-looking animals but the rampant killing of snakes has got to stop. We are better than this.

For more reading on this topic:

Why We Shouldn't Kill Snakes
Snakes are some of the most misunderstood creatures around; whose instinctually driven brains, reactions, and energy…wsed.org

For further reading from this author:

The Plight of Our Honey Bees

Nature Fights Back — An Environmentalist’s Observations on Life from Trash

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