How many people will read that heading and say, no thanks ?.
I suppose that’s the problem. People don’t like snakes. And people not liking snakes is the reason I do. I identify with the underdog (undersnake ?) and the misunderstood. And with typical Aspie enthusiasm, I say, I really, really love them!
People I know sort their objections to snakes into three parts. One, they’re slimy, two, they can kill you and three, the bible says snakes can’t be trusted! Oh God! (Almost literally).
So, let’s debunk these three points.
One. They aren’t slimy at all. They are actually dry. It’s hard to define how a snake feels because it goes beyond mere skin type (Would that be oily, dry, or somewhere in between Madam ?. We have products for all skin types!). The sense I have always had when holding a snake, is power!. Essentially they are one long, flexible muscle of surprising strength, some with smooth scales and others with abrasive. All powerful and all beautiful.
You think I am joking ?. Have you ever actually studied a snake ?. Look at the colours, the patterns, the subtle camouflage of the Sidewinder to the vibrant colouring of the Eyelash Viper. These are astonishingly beautiful creations, diverse, a rich part of life’s tapestry but so often feared and overlooked. Look at a picture and ignore the fact it’s a snake. Concentrate on the colour, the pattern, see how different shapes and subtlety of shading emerge from the form. And tell me it’s not beautiful.
Two. Snakes can kill you. So can cars. So can guns. And I’ve never seen a snake driving a car or firing a gun!. People kill you deliberately, because they want to, snakes because you got in the way of their escape or you hurt them. Big difference.
A little known fact is that Snakes (Venomous ones) can deliver dry bites. They can control venom output. Makes sense because, if they kill us they can’t eat us, so why waste precious venom in trying ?. Snakes hear us coming and hide. They don’t seek confrontation and, if we get too close, they’ve developed the Rattlesnakes warning rattle and the Saw Scaled Vipers, rough, rubbing sound and the loud hiss of the King Cobra (My favourite snake). Some will bite only after the most severe provocation, some, like the Rinkhals, play dead but the point is, they’re not out to get you. They don’t have a motive, they don’t have a plan, they just want to be left alone to do their own thing (they are probably on the spectrum!).
Three. It’s a Bible thing. My late Mum thought that, in women, it might be a genetic thing that dated back to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. An interesting theory if somewhat hard to prove. All I can say is that, of people I know, men tend to “not mind” snakes whilst most women “hate them”.
I respect snakes. I respect those who risk their lives extracting venom which is used in medical research for cancer busting drugs. That’s another thing people don’t understand. What could kill us is saving us as the proteins in the venom have many medical uses.
From having “Poisonous” Pythons wrapped round me in India, to being up close and personal with three huge Burmese Pythons at a snake temple in Burma, from watching a green Viper saunter across a baking Burmese street to the snake charmers of India, to having dinner in my hotel in Sri Lanka when, to my delight and surprise, a banded Krait, one of the worlds deadliest, undulated past me and coiled up not three feet away in an ornamental pool and to a hot summers day at Crackington Haven in Cornwall where, high up on the cliff path, the Adders came out and lay in their dozens across the baking tarmac and our walk was, rather too hastily curtailed.
I’m not saying people should love snakes. I’m not forcing you to my point of view but think of me as an advocate for serpent rights, a promoter of their good side and a snake myth buster.
And when you next see a picture of a snake, don’t hurriedly turn the page, don’t shudder and turn away, instead, focus the eyes on the alluring patterns in the scales, the rich colours, the depths and hues and remember, it’s not your enemy.