Archived Story

Misconceptions about snakes make them feared

Published 9:45am Friday, July 13, 2012

by J.D. Kleopfer

J.D. Kleopfer, a terrestrial biologist/herpetologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, says misconceptions about snakes have made them among the most feared and misunderstood of all animals. -- SUBMITTED

Snakes have been the focal point of folklore for centuries.

 

The word “snake” itself often yields a strong emotional response ranging from awe and wonder to shock or fear. These individual responses originate from the diverse values people associate with snakes.

While some people find them fascinating, others are not very fond of snakes because they don’t appear and behave like any other animals we know. Additionally, there are numerous deeply rooted tales and myths about the extraordinary powers and abilities of snakes.

Regardless of the source of our response, misconceptions about snakes have made them among the most feared and misunderstood of all animals. Once we begin to learn more about snakes, our misconceptions usually fade with the facts and our fears give way to curiosity.

There are many different control strategies for dealing with snakes, whether in a home, a business setting or other occupied space. Regardless of why a snake may have entered a residence or work area, most people just want to know how to remove it.

How-to information and literature on dealing with snakes is available from different sources. Under Virginia law, snakes are classified as a non-game species and are afforded protection under non-game regulations.

While killing snakes is not a permitted activity, they can be taken along with certain other species of wildlife when classified as a nuisance species; when found committing or about to commit depredation upon agricultural or property damage, or when concentrated in numbers and manners to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance.

For example, if a blacksnake is found in your chicken coop, you have the legal right to kill it, or if a copperhead is found in your garage, you have the legal right to kill it.

Basically what this means is that, for example, if a snake crawls into a chicken coop or into someone’s home, the individual is allowed to take some action to protect livestock or family.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, along with many other governmental, nongovernmental agencies and residents, has worked diligently to dispel the belief that “the only good snake is a dead snake.”

Snakes play a valuable role in nature and help control insects and rodents that damage crops and carry diseases harmful to humans. Millions of dollars in crop damage are avoided every year as a result of the free pest control service that many snakes provide.

To help citizens better understand the ecological value of snakes and identify snakes in their areas, the Department of Game has developed “A Guide to the Snakes of Virginia.” This publication covers many interesting facts regarding Virginia’s snakes including their contributions to the ecosystem.

This publication is available for purchase at www.HuntFishVA.com.

JOHN “J.D.” KLEOPFER is a terrestrial biologist/herpetologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in Charles City. He can be reached at John.Kleopfer@dgif.virginia.gov

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