Make a post or comment about snakes, and ninety five percent of the time, you will get the exact same response from your friends or social media followers.
“Eww, a snake”
“The only good snake is a dead snake”
Unfortunately, snakes are well known FOR their misrepresentation. Whether that begins with mythology, or something else, the perception (and avoidance) is strong.
Snakes are represented across mythologies, such as
The serpent in the creation story of the Abrahamic faiths- where the serpent (portrayed as a snake, and seen by many as the devil) is deceitful and leads to the fall of humanity.
The serpent in the Nordic myth (portrayed as a dragon), Nidhogg, tries to literally choke the Tree of Life, and is the symbol for evil.
And of course, one of the most famous, Medusa of Greek myth, who, in place of hair, has a head of snakes, each one with the power to turn a person to stone with a simple eye contact.
Others see snakes as a symbol of immortality, new life coming from a shed skin. Or a symbol for fertility and sexuality (or for the forbidden or exotic)
Maybe that is where our fear of snakes comes from. Or, maybe the myths are based on a deeper misunderstanding because of the “unnaturalness” and uneasiness felt watching a creature with no legs slither around faster than we can walk.
Whatever the reason, the fear (or uneasiness) is deeply ingrained in many people. However, when we look no further than our human fears, we miss the beauty, and more importantly, the biological and ecological necessity of the snake.
Regarding conservation of endangered and critical species, there is a running theme among those hoping to save biodiversity. When you think of a “save the animals” campaign, what do you picture? Images of the World Wildlife Federation come to mind, with their iconic panda as a logo. Or the lions in Africa in all their majesty (and a popular Disney movie to boot). Or even the Rhino and it’s horn or the elephant and its tusk. Those animals, with their size, and beauty, and majesty are easy faces for the conservation of species supporters. And they are important members- no doubt.
But even more important are the “ugly” creatures. The insects, the reptiles, the bugs and the bees that make the foundation of our biodiversity. The creatures in which all our ecology relies to keep the world in its diverse balance.
Rethinking the Snake
Enter the snake. The snake is one such creature. Absolutely crucial to the environment globally. Absolutely at risk by those who intentionally or unintentionally destroy it. Big picture stuff like habitat loss and climate change pose the same risk to our reptiles as they do to our cuddly critters (and our humanity). But, more localized behavior, such as “Rattlesnake Roundups” and the snake skin for fashion trade also shape our perception of the animals that are so crucial to our environment.
Our goal here isn’t to be on the extreme with the animal rights movements, (as valid as those are), but to instead offer a platform and forum to discuss the importance of all animals and how to care for them.
Snakes are not our enemies. They are quite beneficial in many ways, including preventing the spread of diseases found in rats and insects. With many diseases transferred through rodents and insects, keeping the balance right in an area helps to cut down on those diseases.
Snakes also eat the rodents that eat the food from our gardens, making them a great addition to small, local, food producers.
We also are increasingly learning about the medical benefits of snake venom to treat a number of diseases, and research in the field continues to grow exponentially.
It’s Not Just Humans
Regardless of the “human” benefits of any plant or animal, there is also the idea that species have their own intrinsic value despite the monetary or other value given by humans.
There is enough justification just in the human reasons for encouraging smart perceptions of snakes, but, if those are not enough for you, you may be a budding Snake Advocate. If the mass killings and tortures of rattlesnakes disgust you, or the idea of a snake skin bag or boot is as repulsive as fur, consider learning more about snake advocacy and what it takes to help change the opinions and perceptions of your friends.
Organizations such as snakes.ngo educate and inform about snake advocacy and may provide ways of getting involved.
Other ways you can help:
Share facts when people ask questions about snakes
Share facts when people make claims such as “the only good snake is a dead snake”
Learn the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes and education your children and friends about distinguishing between the two
Attend hematological museums and demonstrations to further your education
Take pictures (SAFELY) of snakes you see at living museums or even if your yard. (Again, we emphasize proceeding with safety. If you are inexperienced with reptiles, get training from an expert and never pick up or approach a snake without the proper training)
And the most easy thing you can do to support snakes… is to LEAVE THEM ALONE. Let them do their thing in the fields and the yards. They have a place in biodiversity and it’s not our place to interfere.
We can change people’s opinions and perceptions about snakes and other creatures by simply not being afraid. Get educated. Ask a friend who keeps snakes to give you more information. Face your fears first, and then we can all get out there and make a difference for the snakes!