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Don't Kill That Snake!

I came upon this Brown Water Snake basking on the road that leads to the rear portion of the Big Cypress Gallery property in Ochopee, Florida. The little one probably wasn't more than three feet in length. This chance meeting reminded me of something one finds in a laminated fold-out guide on snakes written by George L. Heinrich and Timothy J. Walsh.

The pair note that: "Despite playing important roles as both predators and prey, snakes remain highly misunderstood vertebrates. [Of 31 native to the state] only four venomous species occur in south Florida and these snakes [the Eastern Coral; the Florida Cottonmouth; the Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake; and the Diamondback Rattlesnake] present little danger when left alone."

Too often too many humans--not only in Florida but most everywhere--look on snakes as threats and destroy them when encountered. This is such a sad fact for so many reasons not the least of which is that snakes offer many benefits to humans.

Central Florida Zoological Services offers, on its website, a good example of the valuable service that may be provided by native snakes. There we read: "Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a disease transmitted through deer mice, cotton rats, and white footed mice within the Southeastern United States. It is contracted through contact with rodent urine, droppings or nesting materials that are stirred up, releasing the virus into the air. This is known as airborne transmission. But it can also be transmitted through [a bite from] a rodent, or touching an object contaminated with rodent feces/urine or saliva and then afterwards touching your mouth or nose. Rodents get into houses through a myriad of methods [and] . . . can go long periods of time without being noticed . . . Snakes are not susceptible to diseases transmitted from rodents and thus, are your safest bet for ridding your property of rodents before they penetrate your home . . . While rodents serve well in their ecological niche as with any wild animal, they do need to be kept in check. Snakes provide that service free of charge." (

If you don't know your snakes, try becoming better acquainted so you don't end up doing in a friend.

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