A Love for Snakes


Fence Post 022I rolled the snake skin carefully in my hand. It was dry, with a texture like paper. The soft noise it makes when rubbed against itself resemblances crinkling tissue paper but softer. If it had a color it would be white or light gray. The skin is diaphanous, even though light passes through it; it still has a texture and design like a fingerprint on a piece of tape. It is like a ghost of a snake. The skin is whole, like the skeleton or outline of the snake; reminding you of the snake’s presence though it remains hidden. It is this latter quality which made it so intriguing, especially to my child curiosity. It was mysterious and therefore appealed to me. I often took it out of my box to touch and marvel.

I honestly don’t know when or how I really started to like snakes, it was most likely a gradual process starting in early childhood collecting the snake skin and hearing stories about snakes. They are there but you only rarely see them. When I was very young our family went to the beach at Whitewater State Park with our aunt, uncle and cousins; we saw a milk snake sunning itself on a rock next to the beach. That was the only time growing up I saw a wild snake. Learning about amphibians and reptiles in first grade and then adding to that the rest of my schooling years helped to foster my interest. The more I learned the more fascinated I became. But it all came together in a herpetology class.

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While I was sitting at the nature center at Whitewater, a woman who found snakes repulsive asked me why I liked snakes. My answer was snakes are cool. Ever since it has nagged me that I didn’t have a better answer, one that would educate her and perhaps get her to rethink how she felt about them. Indeed, I do think snakes are cool. Why though? They are cunning, incredibly strong, very mobile despite not having legs, hunters of rodents, and just plain fascinating.

Why do people hate snakes? The cited reasons include: they are slimy, snakes bite and are venomous, and in the Bible Eve was tempted to sin by a snake. Snakes have been portrayed negatively in our media. However, snakes aren’t slimy. Their skin is smooth and dry. People are slimier than snakes; our skin is moist from constant perspiration. Snakes are shy and cunning, they would rather hide then waste the energy to attack something they can’t kill and eat. Most snakes will only bite when provoked or startled and will usually give a fair warning. In Minnesota, there are only two kinds of venomous snakes, the timber rattle snake and the massasauga; both being so rare you would be lucky if you found one. In the biblical story of Eve, she was tempted by Satan disguised as a snake not an actual snake.  Jesus said to be cunning as snakes. People despise snakes because of fear and ignorance. For most people, fear comes from a lack of understanding.

I admit, for awhile I had some fear of these elusive and misunderstood creatures, it was a respectful fear though, knowing they were powerful creatures that needed to be treated with the utmost respect. And although I had fear, I did not hate snakes. As I have learned more about snakes, my fear has dissipated.

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