Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Readers Write In: A Tennessee Mystery Snake on the Porch

Found on my mothers deck...She lives directly on the Buffalo River in Hohenwald Tn. We are trying to decipher if this is non-venomous water snake or a venomous cottonmouth . If you could help us that would awesome. 

Thank You, 

Toni H.
Hohenwald, Tennessee


    Okay readers, is this a non-venomous watersnake? A venomous Cottonmouth? Or, is it perhaps something else altogether?

    Remember, when you're telling Toni what kind of snake this is, explaining how you identified the animal is much more useful than just naming the species. Guesses are welcome, as always, and are helpful for working through the process of snake identification. So, don't feel shy if you're not positive about your answer.

Monday, October 28, 2013

In Defense of Beavers --Guest Post--


    When I lived in Wisconsin's North Woods, my favorite walk was a path that skirted the shore of one of the area's many kettle lakes. I walked it in all kinds of weather, at all times of year, and saw all sorts of interesting things as a result. One of my favorite memories of that lake is the time I got to observe a beaver hard at work doing beaver things: the sound of bubbling and splashing alerted me to its presence, and as I watched, it submerged repeatedly to work on dismantling a fallen birch tree. Each time it stuck its head underwater, butt and tail waggling on the surface, I would hear a distinct gnawing sound. Finally it was able to tow a limb to shore. 

Steve, Wikimedia
    I like beavers. Not everyone does, and I understand why – if you depend on the land for your livelihood, and a beaver moves in and floods your pasture or woodlot, that's a serious problem. Trees may drown, wildlife and livestock may be displaced, and it's easy to see how the immediate effects of beaver activity can be considered negative. However, across broader scales of time and space, beavers actually provide great benefits to both ecosystems and people:

    Beavers are good for biodiversity. At another place in Wisconsin where I used to go hiking, an old beaver wetland had matured into a broad, open meadow through which a stream meandered. (The beavers themselves and their dam had been removed some time before, but the surrounding trees had yet to recolonize the spot.) On a property that was otherwise heavily wooded, this was the best place to look for Sandhill Cranes, displaying American Woodcocks, and other species that require open ground. Studies have backed up the idea that beaver wetlands become local diversity hotspots, increasing the abundance and diversity of frogs, songbirds, and other creatures. 

    Beavers are good for water quality. Wetlands act as natural water filters, and beaver dams increase this effect, trapping silt and other material and reducing the amount of pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer that are washed downstream.

Fungus Guy, Wikimedia
    Beavers are good for flood control. Like manmade dams, beaver dams store water during high flows and release it gradually, reducing the severity of floods. This increased water storage also helps recharge aquifers and raise the local water table.

    Beavers are good for seafood. Since observing that beaver at work in a Northwoods lake, I've left Wisconsin and moved across the country to eastern Oregon. Beavers are important here, too, for a reason I wouldn't have expected: they're good for salmon. The Columbia River and its tributaries are famous for their salmon runs, and beaver dams create important rearing habitat where the newly-hatched fish can grow and mature before they make their return to the ocean. Restoring beavers (which have declined in the region due to “harvesting” by humans) is one of the priorities of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Mid-Columbia Steelhead Recovery Plan. 

D. Gordon E. Robertson; Wikimedia
    Beavers are even helping the fight against climate change. Over the summer beavers briefly made science and conservation headlines with the release of a study showing that the wetlands they create actually sequester carbon. A researcher compared the amount of organic carbon stored in sediment in active beaver wetlands in Rocky Mountain National Park versus those that had been abandoned, and found that beaver activity significantly increased carbon sequestration. When beavers are removed and their wet meadows dry out, carbon storage declines. 

    When I was researching this post, one of the comments on an article I read claimed that “the beaver is a destructive animal that needs to be hunted or exterminated.” I've met people that share that view, but the truth (as it usually is) is more complicated. Despite the damage they can do, I hope that landowners are able recognize the potential benefits of beavers and continue to seek ways to coexist with them. If nothing else, we should be able to empathize with a creature that so drastically alters its habitat to suit its needs. After all, only one other animal is capable of similar feats: us. 


Rebecca Deatsman is an environmental educator based out of rural eastern Oregon. She writes about conservation and natural history on her blog, Rebecca in the Woods, and is also on Twitter as @rdeatsman.

Want to Learn More? Check Out These Scientific Articles:

E. Wohl (2013). Landscape-scale carbon storage associated with beaver dams
Geophysical Research Letters, 40 (14) DOI: 10.1002/grl.50710


H.A. Cooke, & S. Zack (2008). Influence of beaver dam density on riparian areas and riparian birds in shrubsteppe of Wyoming Western North American Naturalist, 68 (3), 365-373 DOI: 10.3398/1527-0904(2008)68[365:IOBDDO]2.0.CO;2

C.E. Stevens, C.A. Paszkowski, & A. L. Foote (2007). Beaver (Castor canadensis) as a surrogate species
for conserving anuran amphibians on boreal streams in Alberta, Canada Biological Conservation, 134, 1-13 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2006.07.017

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Roundup: This Week's Wildlife Links (October 25th, 2013)

Good news from China, where people are being encouraged to give up shark fin soup.

Tagged (Great) White Shark in the area probably not something triathletes should be worried about.

Profile of billionaire conservationist Tom Kaplan and a discussion of what he has done for big cat and snakes.

Alligator Snapping Turtle found in Oregon: officials unhappy.

What it's like to get paid to catch fish.

Israeli wildlife biologists studying rare species distraught because their study animals are being killed as suspected spies (although I enjoyed hearing of the kestrel that was released).

First venomous crustacean discovered.

Should we be selling venison?

Leatherback sea turtle feasting. And, more awarding winning wildlife photography.

Every rhinoceros in Kenya is going to be implanted with a microchip in the hopes of reducing poaching.

Incredible pics of goats on cliffs.

What's it like to conserve species: the case of the Golden-winged Warbler.

Lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean are now an epidemic.

What's bad for pine trees is bad for bears.

Killing of rare white moose sparks outrage.

Camera trap pics of a sneaky subject: woodrat family.

Incredible images of African wildlife and landscapes.

Optimism for sturgeon conservation in upstate New York.

Watch out this week for Eastern Diamondbacked Rattlesnakes...on the beach. No, I mean it. Seriously.

How field naturalists die.

Speaking of rare creatures on the beach, there has been a lot of news about recent oarfish strandings in California. Here's talk of them, five things you may not know about oarfish, and news that one was full of eggs. Do these oarfish strandings tell us something about earthquakes? Probably not.

Did I miss an interesting wildlife link from this week? Provide it below





----------
Don't miss a post: Click on this link to subscribe to the blog today! 
Looking for more? Follow me on Twitter.
If you would like to support this blog and if you're going to be shopping on Amazon anyway, please get there by following this link.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Readers Write In: Harvard Horribly Hindered-Have Herpetology Hints?

Hi Brian!

I was wondering if you could identify the snake in the attached picture? It was in Miami, on the FIU campus where I worked a bit with [a colleague] this summer. It couldn’t have been longer than 12 inches.

Thanks a lot!

Ambika

Cambridge, MA

    Today we have a special identification request, coming from my friend Ambika Kamath. While working in the Miami, Florida area, Ambika and a friend took the photograph below of a mystery snake eating an equally mysterious lizard.

    I say that this is a special identification request for two reasons. First, this is unique because Ambika is asking for help identifying not one but two species! I believe this is the first request on this blog where we need to identify multiple species: which species of snake and lizard are we dealing with here? Second, this request is special because it is not every day that the readers of L.A.W. are asked for help from a researcher from Harvard University.

    So, let’s see if we can help the Harvard gang out by identifying this snake and lizard. Some of you might quickly guess/identify the snake but we’ll give the Alpha Herper Award to whoever can pin down the identity of the lizard!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Readers Write In: Endangered Bats Roosting by my House?

Hello Dr. Steen,

I have had these little bats roosting in my pavilion for the past several weeks and am wondering if they are the common Brown Bat or the endangered Indiana Bat. I know that these two species are often confused and this unfortunately was the best picture I could get of them without disturbing. Thanks for any possible info, the previous owner of our property says these little guys come back every year. I live in central Pennsylvania about an hour north of Harrisburg.

Thank You,


John K. @wildlifesnap

    A good old fashioned bat question just in time for Halloween. Pennsylvania is home to nine different species of bats. The good news is that John has narrowed the nine potentials down to two species. The bad news is that these two species are very difficult to tell apart.

    First off, the Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) is a very common species. In the eastern United States, the little bats that you see flying around above your yards in the evening dusks of summer are almost always Little Brown Bats. They are also usually the species that makes their way inside of houses. Hopefully these little bats will stay common despite the white-nose syndrome that is decimating bat colonies across the northeastern United States.

   Indiana Bats (Myotis sodalis), on the other hand, are a federally endangered species that are known to spend the winter in only a handful of spots in Pennsylvania, and they have never been documented in the vicinity of Harrisburg. So, just by playing the odds, I will bet that these are Little Brown Bats.

    The two species look very similar though, and it's hard to tell them apart with certainty without looking at subtle differences in their morphology. Making things even trickier is that sometimes the species will roost together. But, Indiana Bat faces are generally a little pinkish and I don't see that here. Unfortunately, we can't look at the membranes on the tails of these bats or look at the hairs on their feet, this would allow us to confidently determine the species.

  So, in all likelihood these are Little Brown Bats but I'm hoping that some of you with more bat experience can chime in and confirm (or deny) my identification (Update: be careful what you wish for! Make sure to read the Comments to find out why I am probably wrong).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Roundup: This Week's Wildlife Links (October 18th, 2013)

After 141 years, evidence that Quolls are persisting in this region of Australia. Camera traps are on a roll: here is the first evidence that Sumatran Rhinos are in East Kalimantan. On that note, how can you lure in jaguars to pose in front of a camera trap?

Invasion of the nostril ticks (i.e., the glamour of field work).

How YouTube animal videos promote illegal trade of rare species and confuse stressed animals for something cute.

Eating dead shrews for science. How else will we know how well their bones stay intact during the digestive process?

The process of discovering a new species of owl. First: hear an unusual owl call.

Car exhaust is confusing honeybees to death.

Time-lapse video showing the constant stress and visitation that Florida manatees experience as they try to stay warm in the winter.

An uphill battle? Trying to save the Bushmaster in Brazil.

Tracking a Hollywood cougar. No, literally the wild cat.

This marsupial disintegrates from mating too much.

A new Whale Shark hotspot in an Arabian oil field.

Exotic snakes may be establishing themselves in Newfoundland: they're Gartersnakes.

Seven insects you'll be eating in the future. Yes, you.

The Imperial Woodpecker is extinct, but now we can see it fly due to this recently found footage.

The falling price of bear bile is good for bears, right? Kind of, except now bear farmers are killing their bears for other non-renewable parts.

Native Caribbean predators are unable to stop the invasive Lionfish.

Oil exploration in Virunga National Park stalled by World Wildlife Fund.

Pics of a seal avoiding a Great White Shark with impressive acrobatics.

A theme we often hit on this blog: spider bites aren't as big of a concern as you probably think.

Sea turtles are the second most common capture on Costa Rican longlines.

Jamaican crocodiles are facing increasing threats.

Moving photographs of animals in captivity in zoos.

The natural history of dark-phased hawks.

The rediscovery of an extinct anole: the telephone game edition.

Eel farming may hold the key to their conservation in Japan and worldwide







----------
Don't miss a post: Click on this link to subscribe to the blog today! 
Looking for more? Follow me on Twitter.
If you would like to support this blog and if you're going to be shopping on Amazon anyway, please get there by following this link.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Readers Write In: What is this Colorful Washington Snake?

What kind of snake is this and is it dangerous? Do you know if it could hurt a 4 pound dog? That was my biggest fear, and why I killed it. Normally, I'd scream like a little girl and run the other way.

Thanks again for looking into it. I really appreciate your time and effort.

Aloha,

Wendy T.

Vancouver, Washington

I have to admit that my first thought upon on seeing this vivid and colorful snake was that it was an exotic species that had somehow stowed away on a ship that recently docked somewhere near Vancouver. But, a few moments of research convinced me otherwise.

Readers, A) what was your first thought upon seeing this snake and B) what is your final identification? All: guesses are welcome and keep these entertaining so have it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Readers Write In: What is this Mysterious Camera Trap Mammal?



Hey Dave,

I've been enjoying the blogs very much and thought I might 
throw this one out there to you and possibly your readers. A buddy of mine contacted me a couple of weeks ago wanting to know if I could identify the mystery animal in the picture taken from his game cam here in N. Alabama. There is also a picture of a young buck to give some size reference. There were many things that made me start scratching my head so I sent the pics to several of my colleagues including a few wildlife biologists and hunters from the area who are probably more used to game pic photos than myself. It was interesting to find the number of different answers I was getting, even among biologists. Pictures like these can get some crazy stories going (Chupacabra was a guess someone had thrown out there). Though I know this is a little different from the snake id questions we all enjoy, and I think we know what the mystery animal is, I thought it might be something you would like to take a stab at..

Thanks,
Andrew C.
Alabama

Alright you lurking mammal and camera trap fans, here's your chance to shine. Can you identify the creature in the second picture? Guesses are welcome. The citizens of northern Alabama want to know what's crawling around their woods, even (especially?) if the answer is Chupacabra.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Roundup: This Week's Wildlife Links (October 11th 2013)

"Out of nowhere the bat just flew directly into the mouth of the toad..."

How the decline of the Tasmanian Devil is good news for feral cats.

A couple weeks ago I highlighted some spectacular pictures of a Jaguar hunting a Caiman. Now there's video. Not a good week for these crocodilians: how pesticides from banana farms may be harming Caimans.

How a fondness for Raccoons unleashed the animal throughout Japan.

You are no longer allowed to wear animal print clothes when you visit this UK zoo. It bothers the animals. An added bonus: no tourists will accidentally be tranquilized by zookeepers.

European wildlife is making a comeback.

Visit Norway, try the whale?

A great summary of the conservation issues faced by Caribou in Jasper National Park (as well as by the residents of the area). In two parts: 1 and 2. Very interesting to think about how Gray Wolves will use the paths made by skiers to prey on Caribou they couldn't get to before.

You're probably about as likely to be killed by your friend while s/he is killing a snake than be killed by the snake itself.

Surveying the wildlife of New York's Central Park.

Alligator Gar conservation in Illinois.

An in-depth consideration (and discussion of some misconceptions) of deer-vehicle collisions and your safety.

Everything you ever wanted to know about salamander diversity.

How recordings of tigers growling can keep elephants from raiding farms.

Hard to think about this one: huge American Alligator harvested outside of Florida nature preserve should not have been killed.






----------
Don't miss a post: Click on this link to subscribe to the blog today! 
Looking for more? Follow me on Twitter.
If you would like to support this blog and if you're going to be shopping on Amazon anyway, please get there by following this link.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Readers Write In: What is this Texas Turtle?

I live north of Houston, TX. The other day I was raking up leaves and noticed something moving around in the leaves. Looked thru the pile and found a turtle. I brought it in the house put it in a large bin. I was wanting to know what kind of turtle it is? Would it be ok to keep it as a pet for my kids?

Thank you,

Melinda L.
Houston, Texas

The first thing we notice about this turtle is the striking yellow and orange pattern on the shell. This is enough to immediately identify it as a Box Turtle (i.e., a turtle within the Terrapene genus). But, the domed shell and head shape are all characteristic of this group of animals as well. 

Box Turtles are different from many turtles we encounter because they are terrestrial. Although they might take an occasional dip in the water, they spend most of their lives on land (although I did once find one swimming across the Emory River in Tennessee).

These turtles meander through their habitats foraging on fruits, mushrooms, insects, and other odds and ends. Their travels can take them over a mile or so (> 1 km) but they generally have established areas where they spend their time. Because they are wandering around a lot, they may often travel across roads (or into yards), where they are frequently run over or relocated by Good Samaritans hoping to move the turtle to a safer area.

Unfortunately, moving Box Turtles isn't a great way to keep them safe. Because they have established areas that they use (and have spent years or decades walking around), a relocated turtle could be disoriented and move around more than usual or even try walking back to where it came from. These increased movements make them even more vulnerable to crossing roads.

I generally think it is best to avoid turning wild animals into pets and I asked Melinda to consider the change the turtle would experience going from a life wandering around the woods to one where it is confined to a small bin. I also told her about how when I was young I had a "two-week rule". I was allowed to keep any creature I found, including turtles, for a maximum of two weeks. Then, it had to be released. I think that's a good compromise between curious children and an animal's wild ways. Melinda agreed that strategy would work for them.

I also asked Melinda one more question. I wanted to know how many toes this turtle had. There are two species of Box Turtles living around eastern Texas: the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) and the Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata). One straightforward way of telling them apart is the number of toes on their back feet. Easterns have three toes on each back foot while Ornates have four toes on each back foot. This turtle had three, therefore I'm going to call it an Eastern Box Turtle.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Only Good Dog is a Dead Dog: Why it Doesn't Make Sense to Kill Venomous Snakes in your Yard



    Thanks for visiting, why don't you come back? Follow me on Twitter and get blog updates by e-mail: subscribe here.    

    We have often discussed here on this blog how and why killing snakes whenever and wherever you see one is a questionable land ethic. But, in the past I conceded that I understand why people would kill venomous snakes when they are found in their backyards because of the perceived threat to their families. Prompted by some comments left on a recent blog post, I’ve reflected on this a bit more and have come to the conclusion that I think I was wrong: It does not actually make sense to kill venomous snakes in your yard. My reasoning is the topic of this post. That said, I can’t possibly predict the outcome of every wild animal encounter and I can’t tell you what is the safest thing to do in any specific situation. I can, however, speak in general terms. I hope you will take this information and decide for yourself what the proper course of action may be when you find a venomous snake.

   Many people kill all the venomous snakes they see in their yard because they feel this makes their property safer for themselves and their family. These killings are the topic I’ll be discussing below*. This isn’t a post about saving snakes and being a tree hugger, it’s about reducing the chances that a venomous snake will bite you. I will attempt to make the following points: 

Killing venomous snakes around your property in an attempt to make your property safer does not make sense because: 

1) The risk of being bitten by a venomous snake when you are not harassing that snake is extremely low and,

2) The risk of being bitten by a venomous snake when you are trying to kill it is relatively high, therefore,

3) The act of killing a venomous snake increases your personal risk disproportionately to any potential decrease in the probability that the snake will bite you or someone else in the future (I don't actually have the statistics to prove this point, but I feel it is a common sense conclusion given the information I summarize here).

4) A venomous snake on your property is probably there because you are in or around good snake habitat, therefore there are likely to be multiple future encounters with additional snakes, leading to multiple dangerous encounters if they are all killed as they are observed.

5) Teaching and encouraging others to kill snakes increases the chances that they will mimic that behavior, thereby increasing their risk of snakebite.

6) Finally, you unlikely do anything about the many other things that are around your property that are more likely to kill you than snakes.

    First off, do snakes deserve their deadly reputation? In the United States, there are approximately 7,000-8,000 recorded venomous snakebites a year. Of all these bites, on average only about five result in death (1). Although there are a fair number of snake bites each year (and a few deaths), this number includes all the drunk knuckleheads that are showing off with a snake they caught, it includes all the people at rattlesnake roundups holding rattlesnakes and letting them strike at their boots, all the religious snake handlers proving their faith, it includes all the people who keep venomous snakes as pets, it includes all the wildlife researchers who handle live rattlesnakes as part of their job, it includes the pest control workers that remove venomous snake from their hiding places, it includes all the Steve Irwin wannabes that harass venomous snakes for no particular reason, it includes the people who work with rattlesnakes to extract their venom every day, and it includes all the people who use shovels or other hand tools to kill snakes in their yard. You can dramatically decrease your chances of being bitten by a venomous snake by promising not to be any of those people. It is very unusual for a person minding their own business to be bitten by a venomous snake. Depending on which study you're looking at, many if not most of all the snakebites in the United States occur when attempts are made to capture or kill a snake (and many of these attempts occur when under the influence of alcohol, e.g., Morandi and Williams reference below, 2).

    Killing a snake with a gun does not carry the same risks as killing a snake in hand-to-serpent combat with shovels or sticks because you can be out of the snake's strike range when you pull the trigger. But, firing a gun may not be legal or advisable in your backyard or around houses. Even being well-trained with a firearm is no guarantee tragedy won’t occur: just ask the Oklahoma police officer that in 2007 shot at a Ratsnake in a yard and killed a five-year old boy fishing with his grandfather in a nearby pond. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether using a gun to kill a snake is a reasonable option, but just remember that no matter how the snake is killed, it can still envenomate you if you handle the corpse.

    Assuming you're not using a gun, just by deciding to not capture or kill venomous snakes (especially after you've been drinking), your chances of being bitten by one drops dramatically. Let me summarize this to make the point very clear. If nobody tried to capture or kill venomous snakes in the United States, probably about two people would die a year, on average, from a venomous snake bite. That doesn’t mean that even a single death isn’t a tragedy, but it needs to be put in perspective considering there are nearly 314 million people living in the United States.

    I think there is a common misconception that if you see a venomous snake in your yard, your chances of being bitten by one have suddenly skyrocketed. Here's why I think this is seldom the case: It is very unusual for a venomous snake to just emerge from the depths of Hell the forest and take up residence in an area that is not good snake habitat. If you live in or around venomous snake habitat, you walk by venomous snakes every single day without knowing it. 

See it?
    Snakes are extremely secretive creatures. I did not fully appreciate this fact until I started participating in snake radio-tracking studies. Often, even though my receiver was telling me that there was a snake right in front of me, I couldn't see it. I've heard similar stories from Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake researchers that stepped past, over, and yes, even on rattlesnakes while they were tracking them. Sometimes, they're practically invisible. Every once in a while though, you may see one in your yard. This doesn’t mean that this one snake is a danger to you, it just happened to be the one that was unlucky enough to be seen. Killing this one individual snake doesn’t address the fact that you are surrounded by them. And killing them one by one is not a long-term solution to sharing your land with rattlesnakes, it’s just an isolated and dangerous activity repeated over and over (keep reading for alternative strategies).

    Do you make a habit of killing all the dogs in your neighborhood? If you kill venomous snakes for your family’s safety, then it makes sense for you to kill dogs as well. Dogs generally kill over 3o people in this country each year (3). 

    Do you hide everyone’s car keys and stay off of the roads? If you kill venomous snakes for your family’s safety, then it makes sense for you to do so. In the United States, roughly 90 people are killed in car accidents every single day (4). 

    What about the dangers in your very own backyard? About 15 children die every year on playgrounds (three times as many people that die from snakebite, 5), yet we push our children towards them. Why don’t we dismantle all the playgrounds? From a risk standpoint it makes more sense to do so than killing a venomous snake (and it is safer too). And don’t forget swimming pools, well over 100 people drown in them each year (6). 

    Because rattlesnake is often fried up and eaten, and 500 people die in this country every year from choking (7), biting into a venomous snake is probably about as likely to kill you as a venomous snake biting into you.

     To be clear, I do not think anyone should be killing their dogs or hiding their car keys. I also want to make abundantly clear that every single accidental death is a tragedy, regardless of the cause. The point I’m making here is that people take risks every single day with things that are much, much more dangerous than venomous snakes. And, if you’re not killing all the neighborhood dogs in the neighborhood (or chewing your family’s food and forbidding them from using playgrounds, pools, or cars), it does not make sense for you to kill venomous snakes to protect other people; the risk of anyone dying from a snakebite is just too low. Further, killing venomous snakes is a relatively dangerous activity (as we learned above). So, why do it?


    At this point, you may be thinking that even though your chances of being killed by a snake are extremely low, there are thousands of people envenomated by snakes every year that do not die. And, getting envenomated by a snake can be a very painful and serious emergency that we all want to avoid for ourselves and others. In this case, instead of using the number of people killed in cars, by dogs, and on playgrounds, consider how many people are injured and see how these numbers rank against the number of venomous snakebites. For example, there are about 4.5 million dog bites in this country every year (8), in 2012, these bites resulted in over 27,000 reconstructive surgeries (9). Remember, many if not most snakebites occur after people intentionally mess with a snake. Don't do that.

    In summary, in many cases killing a venomous snake in your yard is not a logical thing to do. It increases your chance of being bitten by a snake while teaching others a risky behavior that is more likely to get them bitten and/or killed by a snake than doing nothing at all. At the same time, it often does not make sense to kill venomous snakes to decrease the chance others will be bitten because of the relatively high risk to you and the extremely low chance someone will be bitten by a snake regardless of what you do. Killing snakes seems especially pointless considering that it is unlikely you can eliminate a snake population or reduce overall risk by taking out the few snakes you see.

    There are more harmonious (and safer) ways of sharing land with wild creatures than killing venomous snakes, and they involve common sense precautions like learning to identify the wildlife in your area and giving space to potentially dangerous animals. You should also wear close-toed shoes and watch where you put your hands if you know you are around snake habitat. You can reduce the chance that you will find a venomous snake in your yard by keeping brush and woodpiles away, mowing the lawn regularly, and trimming shrubs so that they do not reach the ground. I think that following these practices and teaching others to do the same will reduce the chance of snakebite more than killing snakes ever will.

    What will you do the next time you see a venomous snake in your yard? Let me know why below.

* Many people kill snakes for no reason at all, whether they are venomous or not, and no matter where they are found. I am not discussing these people here because I can’t help them; killing animals for fun is often associated with psychopathic behavior and I am not a psychiatrist. 

Related Posts:





Want to Learn More? Check Out These Scientific Articles:

N. Morandi, & J. Williams (1997). Snakebite injuries: contributing factors and intentionality of exposure Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 8, 152-155 DOI: 10.1580/1080-6032(1997)008[0152:SICFAI]2.3.CO;2

O'Neil ME, Mack KA, Gilchrist J, & Wozniak EJ (2007). Snakebite injuries treated in United States emergency departments, 2001-2004. Wilderness & environmental medicine, 18 (4), 281-7 PMID: 18076294

H. M. Parrish (1966). Incidence of Treated Snakebites in the United States Public Health Rep, 81 (3), 269-276 DOI: 10.2307/4592691


Thanks

John Jensen and Olivia Sylvester kindly reviewed an earlier draft of this post to help make sure it could stand up to scrutiny like this. The Kingsnake picture appears courtesy of Aubrey Heupel.


1. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/snakes/

2. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/avoidsnakebite.htm there are various other sources for original data.

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_dog_attacks_in_the_United_States#Summary_tables

4. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811630.pdf

5. http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/108601/playgrnd.pdf

6. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6119a4.htm

7. http://www.cals.uidaho.edu/feeding/forparents/pdfs/4_3%20choking.pdf

8. http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/dog-bites/index.html

9. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/Documents/news-resources/statistics/2012-Plastic-Surgery-Statistics/full-plastic-surgery-statistics-report.pdf