Snakes come to us with awful reputations: they give us the “evil eye”; they’re sneaky, slithery, and generally untouchable; they bite us and we die; AND, they got us kicked out of the Garden of Eden. While some of this may be true, and there seems to be a common prejudice against these creatures, a lot of the fear and loathing is unwarranted. They help keep down pest and insect populations (reducing the snake population usually results in an increase in the rodent population); they are usually not enthusiastic for human contact, and only strike when threatened; they help start relationships (what little girl didn’t like the little boy who dangled a snake in front of her!); and, they can make interesting pets.
Snakes are a part of Class Reptilia, subclass Lepidosauria, Order Squamata and suborder Serpentes (just in case anyone should ask). “Four limbed animals (Superlcass Tetrapoda)” is a part of a snakes total “species” identification; but, they in fact, have no limbs…dah!. About 300 million years ago some may have had four legs; but then, some of them changed into birds or mammals instead of snakes or lizards.
Snakes are undoubtedly the banner carriers for creepy, low-life creatures, and it’s hard not to be revolted at the sight of these slinky, slithery, secretive and sneaky things. Well, this is nothing new. Humans and snakes have had a love-hate affair since day one. In India important people come back reincarnated as cobras. St Patrick is hailed for ridding Ireland of all snakes. The Egyptian goddess Mafdet is a destroyer of snakes while the Phoenician God Sadrapa protects snakes. The medical caduceus has two snakes wrapped around a staff, and is based on Greek mythology where snakes using herbs to cure other snakes were observed.
Here are the two most common fears regarding snakes. The first is being bitten and dying a horrible death. The second is witnessing a snake bite and having to cut open the bite and suck out the poison. Actually, both fears are greatly exaggerated; the chance of actually being bitten by a poisionous snake, or having to suck out the poison are rare. Only 10% of all of the snakes are venomous (still scary if you run into one of the 10%). Fortunately, they try to stay out of they way of humans.
OK. All is forgiven, you’re sorry you and your forefathers demeaned snakes based solely on appearance, and perhaps an incident or two, and you want to make amends and invite them into your home (well, maybe just one for starters). Not so fast! You can’t make up for a lifetime of prejudice with a simple invite — there are things to know, and ways to proceed.
- What kind of snakes can be pets?
- What do they eat? (other pets, children?) What are the living arrangements?
- How do you entertain them? How do they entertain me?
- I work long hours but I’m not an exotic dancer. Will my snake be OK without me?
- How long do they live? (How long do I live?)
- Do they need to be taken out for a slither?
What do you do when the 1 1/2 feet of colorful rope becomes over 20 feet long and weighs as much as all three of your children together? Have you ever cleaned out a horse’s stall–get ready?! For the next 20 to 25 years will you be able to become a hunter and killer of mice, rats, chickens and furry little bunnies?
Do you have a “significant other” to help you wrestle with your 10 foot 60 pound companion we he needs to go to the vet, when his “home” needs cleaning? (may be a good way to lose “significant others”). “OhOh, the cage is open and empty!& No sleeping tonight until all residents are in their respective “rooms”. (You’d be surprised how well these guys can hide — even the big ones.)
Well, snakes definitely are not for everyone — no matter how hard they(I) may try. In later articles we’ll discuss different types of pet snakes, starting with the boas and pythons. These articles will provide more in-depth information that you will need before you say “Guesssssssssssssss who’s coming to dinner.”
Written by Ron Lueth, Pet Guardian Angels of America
There are many resources available to help you make you decision, and to help once you’ve made the plunge:
Here’s a few good sites that not only contain informative articles, but also provide additional links. Google a snake. Reptile Knowledge. A reptile web site worth hissing about.Herp Center. Herp Center is dedicated to providing its members with information pertaining to reptiles in a friendly, online community.
Melissa Kaplan’s Herp Care Collection” Click Snakes.
About Snakes. A huge resource for those interested in snakes, as well as other exotic pets including lizards, turtles and tarantulas.
Exotic PetsSnakes as pets.
Petsnakes.com. A British site.
“Captive Breeding” Published quarterly. P.O. Box 87100, Canton, MI 48187 (313-454-0700)
“Reptile” Published bimonthly. P.O. Box 6040, Mission Viejo CA 92690-9953 (714-855-8822)
“Reptile and Amphibian” Published bimonthly. RD#3, Box 3709-A, Pottsville PA 17901 (717-622-6050)
“The Vivarium” Published bimonthly. PO Box 300067, Escondido CA 92030-0067 (619-747-4948)