Snake Myths

Chasing when angry

When you come across a snake in a wild, you are caught off guard and tend to panic – but the reality is that most snakes are harmless.

Rather unfortunately, humans often fear that the snake is life-threatening and will experience a faster pulse, go weak at the knees and hastily look for the quickest escape route! It's important to remember that the snake is also scared and its instincts take over. It will too, more often than not, attempt to flee as fast as possible along the quickest escape route.

Occasionally, both the human and the snake will attempt to travel down the same escape route. It is this zig zagging movement of the two species that gives the illusion that the snake is in pursuit of the human: in reality it is just trying to escape to safety.

Some snakes try to defend themselves when approached by striking, lunging, hissing or rasping their bodies against themselves (even after the human has retreated back several paces) but it is important to remember that this is perfectly normal.

Summer causes snakes to go blind

It's not increasing temperatures that cause snakes to go temporarily blind (despite popular belief) but the ritual of shedding their skins. Skin shedding contributes to temporary loss of vision as snakes actually shed the scales that cover their eyes. During this process, their eyes take on a milky grey-blue appearance and they have limited vision.

Rattlesnakes always rattle before striking

- Another snake myth that is not true!

Evolution has caused the rattlesnake to develop a rattle as a way of informing big hoofed herbivores of their presence.

The rattle creates a loud, crisp buzzing sound that can be heard from quite a distance and scares away the animals that could have stepped on the snake and crushed it.

The reason rattlesnakes don't rattle when a human approaches is they evolved the rattle to protect them from bison - which are of course a lot heavier than humans. This means a human is more likely to surprise the rattlesnake and risk being bitten.

Do snakes really hypnotise?

Sorry to burst any bubbles here, but the truth is that snakes have no eyelids and it is this characteristic that give them an unblinking stare and a hypnotic aura.

Furthermore, prey animals often freeze when they're scared in the belief that if they remain motionless they will not be seen by the approaching predator; once again, giving the illusion of hypnotism.

I guess snake charming doesn't help!. Whilst it often appears that the snake is, by contrast, being charmed by a flute playing genius, the animal is not swaying to the music in a trance – it's really a defence mechanism, it's responding to the movement of the flute.

Viola!

And it is this that gives me immense pleasure to do the job that I do, the knowledge to explain to others how certain animal species are not what they once thought; and that you will often be left bewildered and in awe of these animals - in ways you never imagined possible.