Snakes Alive!

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By Special to the Monitor

Snakes alive! Otowi Station, Snake Conservation and the Bradbury Science

Museum are collaborating for a presentation and demonstration at 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday in the breezeway between Otowi Station and the Bradbury Science

Museum. Visitors can see all kinds of beautiful snakes, learn the part they

play in our environment, and get an exclusive deal on a Snake Sack, which

contains a guidebook, a notebook for recording the kinds of snakes they

observe, a pencil and a museum-quality replica of a snake.

The Bradbury Science Museum will feature videos about snakes from 10 a.m.-5

p.m. and have some special exhibits about snakes.

Snakes are often hated and feared. Many are even killed for no clear reason.

But there are definitely reasons to keep snakes around your home or garden.

They can keep in check pests like rats and mice, which are vectors for such

diseases as Hantavirus and the plague. And some species that are harmless to

people prey on venomous snakes, reducing the chance of a deadly encounter.

A worker at a Florida dog kennel learned the hard way about the importance

of snakes. He noticed dozens of snakes living in the rafters and crevices,

and decided the reptiles had to go. Working systematically, he killed them

until none were left.

Then came the plague of rats.

The rat population exploded, a state biologist reported. It took two

years, hundreds of people-hours, and thousands of dollars to get control of

the rats and repair the structural damage. This does not include the

hundreds of pounds of dog food that the rats ate or contaminated. The

economic cost of removing the rats natural predators was obvious.

Not every snake eats every pest. Instead, many have evolved to feed on

specific prey. Gopher snakes (also called bullsnakes), for instance, mostly

prey on rodents, but also eat birds, eggs and some lizards. Rubber boas are

known to feed on other snakes, mice, birds and lizards, as well as worms,

slugs and insects. The hognose snake, famous for its ability to puff up in

order to scare off attackers and then play dead if it doesnt work, eats

toads. Small snakes, such as green snakes, garter snakes and ring-necked

snakes, hunt insects.

Of course, even the humblest snake may hiss, coil, puff up or bite if

confronted by a person. Indeed, these behaviors can scare people and

endanger the snake. But if you encounter a snake, biologists say the best

thing to do is leave it alone.

There are many reasons for protecting snakes. They play an important role in

controlling many yard and garden pests. Also, snake venom has been used in

the development of many human medicines for blood and heart problems.

Regardless of their direct benefits to us, all snakes have an important role

in nature. They are a link in the chain of life and if one link is

destroyed, the whole system may weaken and be jeopardized.

Biologists from Snake Conservation are spreading the word about the good

points of scaly predators in a bid to protect these important predators.

Become part of the snake conservation team.