Thursday, October 4, 2007

Check local laws BEFORE you reach for the shovel!

Just a little heads up for some of ya'll out there who might not be fond of the creepies, crawlies, and slitheries you might find in and around your home. Here in Maryland it is ILLEGAL to kill a snake, without a proper licence. While recently prowling several snake-enthusiast photo groups in order to positively identify this little beauty:I came across a number of photos of snakes mashed flat or beheaded and then photographed, with accompanying text like "OMG, can you tell me what this is?! I found it in my bathroom!"
People in southern states seem to live in fear and think that every snake that pokes its head out of the leaves is a copperhead or a cottonmouth. While I have seen cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes all in the wild in a number of places, the over all percentage of snake species are NON-Venomous. In every incidence of mashed and beheaded snakes I saw this proved to be the case. Generally speaking, non-venomous types like rat snakes are more likely to slither into your home than say, a rattlesnake (though I did have one under my front porch one time.) It is usually fairly easy to tell with a reasonable look whether a snake is a poisonous variety or not. Rattlesnakes have rattles, though many non-venomous snakes will vibrate their tail when feeling me, the sound is very different. Pit vipers are recognizable by their heat-sensing 'pits' between eye and snout. Most venomous snakes have distinctly triangular heads with the venom glands obvious bulges in the cheek area. Compare this Black Rat Snake to a Copperhead:
The difference in head and body shape is obvious, and close (But not too close!) inspection reveals the 'pit' just in front of the Copperhead's eye.
There are snakes that mimic the colouration of venomous snakes for protection from predators, such as some variations of king snake, and milk snakes, which resemble the poisonous Coral Snake. If you are unsure whether a snake is poisonous DO NOT TOUCH IT. In fact, its best not to touch any snake. If you have a pest problem with snakes call a reputable local wildlife removal expert, as such individuals will be properly licensed and trained to handle, remove, and relocate any pests including venomous snakes. And don't forget, a snake can be an endangered species too! So don't go chopping their heads off, photographing them (Evidence!) and then bragging about it, because evil people like me will turn you in!
If you are concerned or just curious about snake species in your area, you can contact your state's Department of Natural Resources.
They should be able to provide you with a list of species found in your area, including which are threatened or endangered. And please NEVER pick up a snake unless you know what you are doing! Leave it to the professionals.


Cecile said...

While it's true the overall percentage of snakes are non-venemous, that may not be the case for all homeowners in southern states. I live on a rocky hillside, and copperheads and rattlesnakes far outnumber rat snakes and the like. The snake count this year is two copperheads and one rattlesnake, no non-venemous yet.

Anonymous said...

This random stranger actually would love to see more copperheads around, since she thinks they're all kinds of adorable and awesome.

Anonymous said...

You made a few good points there. I did a search on the subject and hardly found any specific details on other sites, but then happy to be here, really, thanks.

- Lucas