Snake Country :
Getting to know the neighbours – Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes
I’m sitting on my verandah, thinking my way into this month’s article. On the lawn (?) in front of me, almost within touching distance and seemingly oblivious of my presence, an eclectic mix of birdlife is feverishly hopping about, pecking and squabbling over whatever food’s become available since yesterday – search me, I don’t feed them – but they’ve become regular visitors. It’s a wonderful morning ritual, a sort of kid-friendly version of Alfred Hitchcock’s epic, ‘The birds’, without the horror. We’ve become comfortable with each other’s behaviour.
This activity probably illustrates something we might like to think about, the possibility that wild animals, because they’ve been on this earth for many millions of years, have become pretty astute when exposed to foreign animals, at distinguishing the difference between threatening or non-threatening behaviour. O.K. maybe we’ve just arrived, but perhaps it’s time we started to study their behaviour with more insight.
Why would animals want to develop any new behaviours specifically for humans, unless perhaps, through past experience? Although snake behaviour is relevant in terms of my writing, it might help for us to consider that their behaviour – as with that of most wild animals – comes with the territory, and they seemingly are born to accept the fact that they’d better be alert 24/7 because if not, there could be trouble. With very few exceptions – the Dodo is an outstanding example of blind faith – wild animals will hide if they possibly can, to avoid confrontation with other animals irrespective of size, and any of which can be seen as the enemy. At the outset, they’re more than likely expecting to get attacked or killed, every time they come across a strange creature – how’s that for a daily adrenaline rush? But based on this expectation, whilst maximizing the benefits of their given colouration or shape, in order to blend in with their surroundings – even a lack of movement is camouflage in itself – they will also have worked at evolving behaviours that can help, If their initial avoidance behaviour fails to work, their next tactic might be to run, fly, slither or swim like hell! In a worst case scenario (thank you Clem Sunter) the animal might consider issuing warning sounds/behaviours that to most animals would be unambiguous, er, excluding of course, the allegedly most intelligent animal, the human. In the case of snakes, they might hiss loudly or mock strike to warn others of their presence – the rattle snake in the Americas even has a natty rattle attached to his bottom for this purpose. A snake that raises its head above the parapet and spreads its neck to form a hood whilst staring ahead belligerently (I don’t know if it’s belligerence, but it’s pretty scary), is not welcoming the interloper to the party – it’s telling it to take a hike! Whatever the animal, it was put on this earth with a purpose, so let’s try reading the behaviour before we react irrationally.
© pat mckrill. 2016