Friday, March 11, 2005

Striking Back At Snake Snare

Image hosted by
Were I not burdened with the painting curse, I would have pursued a degree in wildlife biology. My focus would have been herpetological. Ever since a young black rat snake (formerly Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta, now Pantherophis obsoletus; ain't taxonomy fun?) fell from a tree branch and landed squarely on the head of a young boy, I have been fascinated by reptiles and amphibians.

So it is with much frustration that I view products like the Snake Snare. The device is designed to decapitate snakes "cleanly," whether you are trying to "remove snakes from golf courses, public areas, camping sites, mobile home parks, [or] trailer parks."

Until recently, herpetologists encouraged people to relocate unwanted snakes, but we now know that the majority of these animals will try to return to their home range. The snakes are often so focused on reaching their destination that they will starve to death or, more frequently, end up under car tires in the process. So, in one sense, I suppose decapitation is logical. "If it's just gonna come back or die trying, why not kill it now and make sure it doesn't bother me again?" I can’t argue with that reasoning, but what if people instead realized that a snake left alone is rather inoffensive and, in most cases, beneficial?

What bothers me most, though, is that the real market for this product isn't golf course groundskeepers, but yahoos. And, keeping this primary consumer in mind, I'm sure some of the snakes captured will not be "instantly" decapitated. Some damn fool out there will think it fun to do the job "real slow like," while he has a good laugh. Also, the manufacturers of Snake Snare are deluding themselves if they really believe, as they posit on the website, that most users will "check your local hunting laws for open seasons and bag limits and be aware that some snakes are protected species and may not be hunted or handled."

I am providing a link to a petition that aims to shut down the Snake Snare business and the domain register. Personally, I don't feel I can sign the petition. Despite my outrage at the notion of such a product, I am generally leery of prohibition of any kind and removing this one mom-and-pop manufacturer doesn't save many snake lives – though it might save them from Snake Snare death, almost as many animals will be killed using other, more traditional methods – but, if successful, it will surely provoke more vocal criticism of the environmental meddler, that much caricatured blue state litigator ready to arrest or sue in the name of progressive policy. At a time when environmentalism is making strides, it seems unwise to stir the pot unless you're cooking big game.

Photo credit: Snake Snare/Zenutech, copyright 2004


Anonymous said...

Hello Buddy I don't know what country your from but here in Australia we have a nice snake called a "Tiger" snake. These nasty creatures hunt at night, will not run away, chase you for hundred's of metres, stand their ground as you unknowingly walk towards it at night, bite many times and are very lethal. If someone was game enough to use a pole snare then banning them leaves only a tap from a shotgun.

Hungry Hyaena said...

Yes, I'm familiar with tiger snakes (Notechis sp.). They are certainly "lethal" (if a bitten individual does not receive immediate attention), and are rather testy when startled, but they do NOT "chase you for hundreds of meters." Provoked, a tiger snake may strike several times and, in the process, propel itself a few yards, but your characterization of the species as an aggressive pursuer of humans is not accurate (at best, it is an exaggeration).

I have corresponded with Australians who work with herps in the wild and regularly contend with tiger snakes (and a host of other "dangerous" wildlife). None of these biologists has ever had a problem with the animals. It seems to me that it is most often the people looking for trouble - those, particularly, who are tempted to harass a snake, for example - that end up needing anti-venom, or more serious attention.

If you think the only way to deal with a snake is pole snare or shotgun, you (like many people) harbor a now irrational fear of serpents; I find that unfortunate. They are remarkable creatures. If you find yourself in the difficult - indeed dangerous - position of contending with a tiger snake (or some other venomous species) in your house, ring animal control before you kill it...or, if no animal control is nearby, pin it with a rake or shovel, capture it (firm grip behind the head) and remove it from the premises.