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Snake Myths Busted

Snakes are naturally very timid

Snakes are naturally very timid

Tall snake tales abound leading to disparaging and sometimes, downright outrageous myths about snakes, all designed to encourage hatred and fear.  Put simply, none … that’s right … none of these myths and stories are true.  They are based solely on misinterpretations of the snake’s actions, and a lack of understanding of their natural behaviour. 

Snakes are flighty, not bitey.

Humans look, sound and smell like predators: because we are.  This is an evolutionary and biological fact we simply cannot change in the eyes of other animals, regardless of our true lifestyles. 

Snakes are eaten by a variety of predators, including kookaburras, raptors, goannas, other snakes and both domestic and feral cats.  Hence, they are scared of anything larger than themselves and terrified of humans.  After all, how would you feel if a predator over 100 times your size appeared in front of you?  

So, when it sees or smells a human, a snake’s first reaction is to flee, not fight.  Come on, would you take on Godzilla?

Snakes can be self-defensive, but never aggressive.

Snakes do not generally defend territories, guard their young or fight over food.  In other words, they have no inherently aggressive tendencies in their natures.  Only if they feel they cannot get away from a perceived threat will they even consider biting – not out of aggression, but self-defence. 

Snakes are not out to get you. 

This notorious fable has come about due to two common statements made by folk reciting tales of encounters with snakes:  “It chased me!” and “It keeps coming back!”. 

Let’s examine what really happened in these two scenarios…

  1. Snakes have favourite hiding spots.  When they get a fright, their first instinct is to flee.  With their relatively poor eyesight, this may mean running straight towards you – but it’s not you they’re after: it’s the nice, safe hole under that rock behind you.
  2. Snakes establish home ranges: an area of a certain size in which they spend most, if not all, of their lives.  Hence, if your backyard happens to be in the middle of that home range, you will certainly see the same snake in the same place again and again.  It’s not personal, merely geographical.

Snakes do not harbour any personal or instinctive resentment towards humans.

Snakes wish to avoid humans even more than humans wish to avoid them. 

Much as we love them, snakes are not exactly intellectuals.  They certainly do not have the mental capacity to think “Humans kill snakes: if I see a human, I’ll creep up when he’s not looking and bite him!”.  Statements like that, (and we’ve heard them!), can only come from folk watching too many Road Runner cartoons.  In the wild, animals do not sneak up and bash their potential predators out of spite.  They run like hell, in the opposite direction.

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