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Elaine A. Powers, Author


Celebrate Snakes!

photo of western diamondback rattler

Snakes often make the list of least understood and disliked animals. But since World Snake Day is on July 16. I think it’s time we celebrate these amazing reptiles around the world! 

One Good Snake

Living as I do in the Sonoran Desert, many people here (and in other places), feel that the only good snake is a dead snake. Some speculate that we are innately programmed to fear snakes having evolved together. However, I think as described so well in the song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” in the musical South Pacific. Is it because we are creeped out because they don’t have arms? Or are we influenced by religious descriptions of the serpent, resembling snakes?

Because of my brother’s allergies to furry creatures, we grew up with snakes as pets. Back in those days, television sets had a warmer so that the tubes would activate quickly when the set turned on. Therefore, the top of the TV set had a warm spot. It was a sizable piece of furniture so had enough room to fit books, lamps, objet d’art, and any number of things. That is where we kept the snake aquarium.

Our family pets were gentle creatures, garter snakes, usually fed earthworms. While watching TV, one of my brothers would hold a worm so the snake could eat its way up its meal – until it reached my brother’s fingers, then he would detach himself from the meal. We’d keep the worm supply in a tomato soup can in the refrigerator. One time when my very proper English grandmother was visiting, she grabbed the can to make some soup for lunch. She disapproved heartedly at what she found in the can!

Understanding These Amazing Creatures

Here in Arizona, the big thing is whether a snake is venomous or not. We do have 13 species of rattlesnakes, as well as the Western coral snake. Arizona has a high diversity of snakes with 55 known species. We are second only to Texas!

People often kill venomous snakes without thinking. What use could they be? All snakes are critical to the ecosystem. Snakes are both predators and prey. Humans are never their intended prey. So why do we feel so threatened by them? I discuss the value of rattlesnakes in my illustrated rhyming book Don’t Make Me Rattle! This book isn’t only for children.

In size, they are much smaller than us, but some of them do have an attitude, willing to take on a much larger, possible, predator. Others make a hasty retreat or stay concealed in their hiding place.

Snakes are really amazing creatures, thriving without limbs. Think about how often you use your arms and legs to go about your daily activities. It must be a successful model since snakes have been around for millions of years. Some have been identified from the dinosaur era.

The Only Good Snake is a Living Snake

Why is the only good snake a live snake? Snakes keep ecosystems in balance throughout the world. Snakes are found on every continent except for Antarctica. A few large islands lack snakes, such as New Zealand and Ireland. No, Saint Patrick didn’t drive the snake from Ireland since there weren’t any snakes there, to begin with. This was the topic for one of my Dudley Dewlap play scripts. You’ll find it in Conversations with Dudley Dewlap.

To us humans, the role snakes play in controlling rodent populations is of utmost importance. We find rodents problematic, so we should welcome the snakes’ consumption of these animals. Snakes don’t even require the rodents to be natives. Snakes eagerly eat invasive rodent species as well. Check out such feeding behavior in my book, Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends.

With my interest in snakes and the success of Don’t Call Me Turtle, Dr. James Jarchow, a fabulous reptile veterinarian, encouraged me to write one of my illustrated books about rattlesnakes. I was delighted to do so. I think Don’t Make Me Rattle! is one of my better efforts. We need to respect rattlers and not fear them.

Actually, we need to respect all snakes and not fear them, from the smallest Barbados Thread Snake, Tetracheilostoma carlae to the largest Green anaconda, Eunectes murinus.

They are all important in our ecosystems and our survival. Get ready to slither, read, and celebrate World Snake Day on July 16!


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