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Snakes: Be smart, avoid bites

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POSTED: December 5, 2013 7:30 p.m.

Last time I was here I shared the first portion of Dr. David Steen’s blog entry, “The only good dog is a dead dog” — a logical and fact-based approach to a very emotionally charged subject — snakes.
The complete article is too long for my space here, so like Gaul, it is divided into three parts. This week, I’m sharing the third portion of the blog entry.
Steen received his Ph.D. from Auburn University, his M.S. from the State University of New York-College of Environmental Science and Forestry and his B.S. from the University of New Hampshire. He researches the ecology and conservation biology of wildlife and blogs about his work at www.LivingAlongsideWildlife.com. I contacted him for permission to share it here. This is a reprint of that blog. You can find the cited references at livingalongsidewildlife.com/2013/10/the-only-good-dog-is-dead-dog-why-it.html.
From Steen’s blog: 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 more than 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.

Editor’s note: This is the third of a three-part series. Gardner lives in Keller and is the UGA extension agent for Glynn County, serving South Bryan.

 

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