SNAKE!

22 08 2007

Dear Deer,

Yes, seeing you outside the other day was wonderful. But seeing your fellow native wildlife INSIDE my house this morning was decidedly not. It was unacceptable! Suddenly happening upon a very alive and plenty big enough snake inside my house has never happened to me, not in a half-century of Florida living.

Now that it has, I’m not sure I will ever feel really comfortable in my own little habitat again.

You know that maladaptive deer-in-the-headlights frozen thing you did in the middle of the road? That was me, in the middle of my own kitchen. It took me half an hour to get off the stool — and now what?

Dealing With Snakes in Florida’s Residential Areas – Introduction
Steve A. Johnson and Monica E. McGarrity

This is not academic, it is PERSONAL!

As Florida’s human population continues to grow, remaining green spaces continue to be fragmented into even smaller areas of natural habitat. The outcome of this insidious process is the creation of small pockets of wildlife habitat in an otherwise urban or suburban landscape. As a result, encounters with snakes in residential areas are increasingly likely to occur.

When you say residential areas, I thought you meant towns and developments, like in the bushes or on the roadside. If you mean where I reside, as in IN MY HOME, that’s a whole different kettle of, um, tolerance for the environment, way past the reach of what I (until today) liked to congratulate myself for cultivating . . .

Despite the fear that many people experience when they encounter a snake, there is absolutely no cause for alarm when the encounter involves a harmless, non-venomous snake.

Oh yeah? As a multiple degree holder from your research university, I have the highest respect for UF’s academic expertise but sell that line to someone who didn’t just find a SNAKE in her own KITCHEN!!!!!!!!!

Fortunately, most encounters between people and snakes in residential areas involve one of Florida’s 38 native species of non-venomous snakes.

So I should be singing Leonard Berstein — “I feel lucky, oh so lucky” — instead of the Beatles –“Won’t you plee-eeze help me?”

Despite the high diversity of harmless snakes in Florida, many of these species do not thrive in residential areas, and of those that do, some are very secretive and are rarely seen by people.

You can’t fool me, I went to school. If some are secretive and rarely seen, then some others are not so secretive AND I JUST SAW ONE IN MY KITCHEN!!!!!!!

If you are not 100% sure of the identity of a snake just “leave it be.”

It didn’t introduce itself and I had zero interest in its identity, except that it was a SNAKE — in my KITCHEN!!!!!

But now here comes the academic lesson, that like too many public education lessons falls on ears as deaf as a snake’s whenever it runs counter to the interests and concerns and present emotional valence of the individual supposedly being “taught” —

Snakes play important roles in Florida’s ecosystems and help to control rodents (common disease-carrying residential pests) and even other snakes. Some non-venomous species, like the Eastern Indigo Snake and kingsnakes, eat venomous snakes! Snakes also serve as important prey for birds and other animals. Sadly, habitat loss and fragmentation associated with development are serious threats for many snake species, as is wanton persecution by people who are ignorant of the important roles snakes play in Florida’s ecology or who cannot confidently identify snakes.

Several species of Florida’s snakes are now considered threatened or endangered, and even commonly seen species that seem to thrive in urban areas are at risk of being killed by pets, lawnmowers, vehicles, or residents who are unfamiliar with Florida’s snakes.

In residential areas where human-snake encounters are likely, we recommend a three part proactive approach for coexisting safely with snakes:

1. Education – Learn to identify commonly encountered non-venomous and venomous snakes, and teach others – especially children! Learn to understand and respect snakes, and to be safe in areas frequented by snakes.
2. Prevention – Take steps to discourage snakes from entering homes and high-use areas of residential properties, warn children and pets to stay away from areas frequented by snakes, and adopt a “leave it be” attitude.
3. Emergency Plan – Establish an emergency action plan for the unlikely event that a resident, child, or pet is bitten by a venomous snake.

Wanton persecution? Leave it be? In my KITCHEN??
You just lost all credibility with me. And I’m one of the intelligentsia. Good luck with the mob!

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14 responses

22 08 2007
Gem

Oh dear (no pun intended), we are considering a move to Florida. Snakes are NOT something I want to think about!!!

22 08 2007
Not June Cleaver

That is one of my biggest fears at FIL’s lake house. OK, that and alligators. My boys run around, ride the tractors all over the property, sometimes going so far away I wonder where they are and if they will ever return. They aren’t Florida natives and I worry that they will pick up something or go inside something that has snakes. My husband was digging weeds out of the lake and tossed a pile of copperheads out. You should have heard him scream!

Sorry you had to go through that. Any idea how it got in? Hope it was just a fluke!

22 08 2007
JJ

Hi Gem and NotJC – I’ve lived in FL a half-century and encountered less than a half-dozen snakes so I am sure (in my rational mind) it’s a fluke BUT — honestly the most funny-sad part of my little story is that the snake turned out not to be the worst thing that I’ve been through in the last 24 hours! Ever have one of those days when it seems like the forces of the universe are aligned against you? Or maybe it is old testament vengeance? — after all, it was a SNAKE . . .
😉

22 08 2007
JJ

Btw, about snake ears — see, anything can be a learning experience!

23 08 2007
Nance Confer

Now, now, no need to panic. This week it was a frog in our kitchen. Lizards are in and out. Black racers are the sort of snake we have around our yard, on the porch and, yes, when helped by a cat, inside the house.

You pick them up and put them back out. They don’t want to be in your kitchen any more than you want them there.

Anything really dangerous, of course, like the neighbor’s possible coral snake, and it turned out it was one, we call the animal protection people and they come and get it.

The sad animal news here is the new development by the community college/library/hospital complex. Well, there was this big field with a pond and we have rescued turtles wandering out onto the road from the pond but the whole thing has been plowed over now — soon to be some sort of building complex. No more turtle rescues on our drive to the library. . . 😦

Hope you learn to co-exist. 🙂

Nance

23 08 2007
JJ

Well, aren’t you just the voice of reason and sanity! 😉
Thanks, I needed that —

With a better night’s sleep than I’d had before my unfortunate encounter (paranoia is heightened by chronic sleep disturbance, did y’all know that? Maybe wacko conspiracy theorists are really just poor sleepers?) I have a brighter outlook today and I’m returning to a semblance of rationality. We did get some good book-pile cleaning out of it it at least!

Nance, yes, just last week FavD and I did a silly dance capture-release of a skink-lizard from inside the house to the front garden whence it likely came, and we don’t even have a cat! My oldest friend here had a large snake in her garage last month and as you said, called animal control (actually I think it was the sheriff — that she called I mean, not that the snake turned out to BE the sheriff, yeah I still need some more sleep!) It must be true that all sorts of reptilian life is pressed in upon our domestic situations now.

And look, just this morning I found a new homeschooler blog linking Snook about the USA Today column. I was enjoying a little exploration of it, scrolling down her right-side features, only to see a photo headed “Hog-nosed Snake at Our Back Door” (to Gem and Not JC, this was in Virginia, not FL — reptiles like Aslan are on the move everywhere now, it seems.)

About the larger story Nance so sensibly brings “home” for me — how hard but important it is to coexist with those whose own life needs clash too directly with our own — right on. Power of Story for our times!

I see it all around me now out in the open, and I fight off panic to know there’s so much I DON’T see that’s there too (that’s the really scary part unfortunately) and with a little more perspective this morning, I realize it isn’t just the wildlife. We humans are doing it to each other, making each other panicky as our comfort zones shrink in all directions . . .

23 08 2007
Valerie

So how’d you get Sir Hiss out of YOUR VERY OWN KITCHEN?

Btw, for the poor sleeping, see about a sleep study. I’ve now got a cpap and if the insurance ever gets antsy about the rental (which they’re bound to do eventually), I will buy one myself! I don’t even care that the grandkids’ comment was, “It makes you look like a pig.”

I [heart] my cpap.

I know there are all kinds of sleep disturbances, but a sleep study could sort it out for you.

23 08 2007
JJ

Valerie, are you psychic??

Doing the blasted sleep study is why I didn’t sleep the night before!

(No doubt a contributing factor to my nasty knee-ripping fall later in the afternoon too) — this morning when you commented, I was off getting the adhesive residue from all the electrodes washed outta my hair.

I’m really glad to hear that you heart your CPAP because that’s likely to be the remedy they’ll propose. Now off to see about the knee; I’m learning as I get older, that you have to be in pretty good shape to be able to participate in all this medical intervention! 🙂

Oh, how did I shoo Sir Hiss? Easy — DH had just walked out the kitchen door, so I opened it and bellowed, “SNAKE!” (And hopped right up on the stool, and so to quote Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story!)

23 08 2007
Valerie

I didn’t sleep during my sleep study either — or at least it sure didn’t feel like it. (and yes, I’m psychic ;>>> it’s the Scots blood )

I’m glad you got a sleep study because that insomnia/sleep disturbance BITES.

And good luck with that knee! (getting old ain’t for sissies, that’s for sure)

And now that I’ve checked to make sure you’re safe from the SNAKE!, I’m off to hook myself up to my turbo-charged sleep machine, turn on the Potter CD (Half-Blood Prince, 3rd or 4th time around — I go from book 1 on through the series, then start over), and then Dreamland. :)))

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

24 08 2007
Alasandra

Well so far we haven’t had any snakes in our house (unless you count the garage as part of the house).

But once when I was laying in the back yard reading a really good book (I was totally engrossed in the book), a black snake came curled up on my legs. I thought it was the cat and turned around to pet it. Boy did I get a surprise.

As long as they are non-poisonous we capture and release away from the house. The poisonous snakes get dispatched to snake heaven. I can’t risk them biting the cats or the kids (or me for that matter).

17 11 2008
Monica McGarrity

I do agree — it is quite difficult to educate “the mob” when you are dealing with such a deep-seated fear issue. As you have illustrated here, that fear is an issue period — even for the “intelligentsia”. The snake that you found in your kitchen was probably a harmless racer or ratsnake. When snakes encounter a wall, they tend to move along the wall until they find an opening — maybe a crack or gap under a door, or around a pipe. Here are some steps you can take to “snake proof” your house and prevent unwanted encounters — Dealing with Snakes in Florida’s Residential Areas: Preventing Encounters

Certainly no one would accuse you of “wanton persecution” for chasing a snake out of your kitchen in a blind panic — rattlesnake roundups and swerving to hit snakes on the road are examples of persecution. Hopefully by reading this series of documents you can learn enough to react in a more calm, educated way. Most importantly, the goal of these documents is to help you to quickly answer the question “Is it venomous?” If the answer is yes, LEAVE IT ALONE! Call a professional, so you don’t get bitten and end up in the hospital. If not, use the tips we provide in this series to shoo the snake out without getting bitten.

We do try to advocate an appreciation for nature and the importance of coexisting — remember, it is humans that are encroaching on the snakes’ habitat (not the other way around).

17 11 2008
JJ

Thanks for commenting Monica, gee UF is good! Go Gators . . .

No doubt you’ve heard this before in your line of work, but at my age the main concern about any snake encounter killing me isn’t the venom, it’s the heart attack. 😉

20 03 2009
NPR’s “Science Friday” Live from FSU This Afternoon « Cocking A Snook!

[…] I heard the audience reaction as one of the naturalists released his snake on Ira’s desk, I was pretty glad to be home!) “I’ve been upstaged many times,” Flatow said, “but never by a […]

28 05 2010

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