Summertime is definitely here with its hot, humid, muggy and all around miserable tropical weather. Can you tell I prefer a cooler time of year? All of these factors can only mean that the dog days of summer are here.
Many myths exist about the dog days of summer, but the most memorable ones revolve around those dreaded creepy crawly snakes. Snakes are everywhere during dog days, they will bite quicker during dog days, and perhaps the most well-known, is that they go blind during the dog days of summer.
All of these are just that, myths. It has already been a memorable summer for snake sightings and run-ins all over the place. Just in the recent weeks I have heard of people finding copperheads in the yards and garages, even a couple of reports of various species of snakes making it into the house!
To say that snakes are generally an unwelcome house guest would be a gross understatement for almost every house in America, but I can promise you their reason for being there isn’t to sneak up on anyone to bite them. Actually, biting a human is the last thing on a snake’s mind.
Snakes care about very few things and biting something they can’t eat isn’t one of them. Even though they don’t have legs, they still care about the same things as any other wild creature. Food, water, shelter and keeping from being food for something else.
Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be a bad gig if that is all you had to worry about in life. Snakes just get a raw deal because studies have shown that over 50% of Americans have some type of fear of snakes. That fear isn’t just directed at the poisonous snakes, it goes for all snakes in general.
Many people live by the mantra, “the only good snake is a dead snake!” Snakes are not all bad, actually they are great at controlling pests of many kind and they are a vital niche in the natural world around us.
In West Virginia we have over 20 different species of snakes and only 2 are poisonous. That means that 90% of every snake you might encounter is going to be harmless. Well, that is of course unless you are in that greater than half of the country that is deathly afraid of snakes and they give you a heart attack.
Still, that isn’t the snake’s fault. Don’t blame him. The only poisonous snakes that call the Mountain State home are the Timber Rattlesnake and the Northern Copperhead. From 1969 to 1992 there were only 4 deaths from a rattlesnake bite that occurred in the wild in West Virginia and there have been no documented cases of a person dying from a copperhead bite in over 30 years.
Now, these numbers don’t include anyone bitten in a church or religious service, and in my opinion those bites aren’t the snakes fault either. If I get held and shaken around enough I would probably bite someone, too.
Actually, in 2008 the Timber Rattlesnake was named as the official state reptile. The WVDNR has, also, established regulations concerning the taking of all reptile and amphibians whether it be for harvest or study.
The limit for the Timber Rattlesnake and the Northern Copperhead is set at one snake per season. The rattlesnake has to be a minimum of 42” or it must be left alone. So, if you were hoping to outfit the family with matching snake skin belts, it might take you a few years.
Luckily, the WVDNR did have the foresight to put a provision in the regulations that snakes immediately around your home or outbuildings can be removed and it will not count toward your season totals.
It may seem crazy to put a limit on snakes, but this was done to protect over harvesting of a valuable natural resource. All of God’s creatures have a place and to lose even one is a huge loss. The regulations ensure that the biodiversity of our beautiful state will be around for many generations to come.
Historically, snakes have always gotten a bad reputation and have been the subject of undue scorn. They are still a part of nature and are truly fascinating creatures. If you are in the percentage of Americans that have a fear of snakes, the best thing is to just leave them be.
For more information on reptiles and amphibians visit www.wvdnr.gov/wf to check out some of the publications available on all sorts of the critters that we share our state with.