Getting to know the neighbours : working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes

Even though it’s been the ‘off season’, I’ve had the privilege recently of being invited to talk to new interest groups, some of whose primary field of interest might have had little to do with the legless ones, but who explained that their members needed something different to listen to for a change. In looking into the various ways in which I might be able to turn my subject matter into something that could have some relativity with their organisation (to ensure at least a little attention from the listeners before boredom sets in – throwing rubber snakes at them is such old hat), I think I became quite adept at moulding my standard snake talk into something that the listeners with different interests, could identify with.

Snake pic Meanwhile down at the water feature ed144 sep14new

The Christian Home-cell group was a good starting point – the Bible has numerous references to serpents and the associated evils, along with the fact that right at the beginning, Adam and Eve were conned by the dude in the orchard, causing untold chaos down the line. I obviously trod warily as I worked my way around the interpretative rocks and potholes strewn along the way, but I think that between us we managed to arrive at an understanding that snakes were put on this earth for a reason and that only recently have we started to really grasp the benefits of their presence, not only in the pest control field, but also in the medical contributions man’s derived from his in-depth study of the animal.
My next group was a Garden Club, and I find it strange that snakes don’t really seem to feature in garden club discussions – apart from possibly a passing reference to the 3 metre black mamba that John the gardener despatched in the potting shed. I find it strange because most gardeners, certainly nowadays, are pretty passionate about environmental considerations – indigenous only, no aliens, bird and butterfly friendly etc. – and by replicating the surrounding environment as closely as possible but obviously in more orderly fashion, the gardener is issuing an open invitation to every snake in the vicinity, to come and share the bonanza of frogs, fish, birds, lizards etc. that is on the menu. Apart from losing one serious phobic who left the hall as I produced the first live snake – some 30 minutes into the talk (hopefully I haven’t converted her from gardening to wanting to run an old age home for cats) – I think we managed to positively realign some rather fixed mindsets.
The pigeon club was a doddle, and I spoke whilst the birds were on their way home from a release elsewhere. All I really had to do was firstly, remind them that some snakes eat bird eggs (much nodding at this point) secondly, tell them that there were those that also ate birds (more nodding) and lastly, sell them some Snake Repel ®.
© pat mckrill. 2014
herpet@eastcoast.co.za
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