Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Snake Rant

I should stay off of other people's blogs... especially blogs of people who kill snakes. I say this having just unloaded on another gal who for no fathomable reason other than ignorance, recently killed a pair of snakes (not venomous) in her garden, then breathlessly blogged about it... even more unfathomable to me is why someone who would kill two harmless, and legally protected creatures, would then publish a picture of one of the cornered snakes on their blog. Here are some simple facts for snake killers: the handful of venomous snakes in the temperate U.S. are all pit vipers. Pit vipers all have largish, triangular heads, heat-sensing pits behind the nostrils, and vertically oval pupils... it is very easy to see from a safe distance; you don't need to kill every one of God's creatures that ventures onto your property, because you think they are going to invade your house, bite you while you're sleeping and make off with the silverware.
The scenario is all too common; people move out into the country because they "love living with nature". They first buy a riding lawnmower to buzz over their three acre lawn (that was a virgin woods before they plowed it under). A wagon is added to the mower to haul around the fertilizer, weed killer, and insecticides that are sprayed on the lawn and everywhere else. One of those large yard lights is added, which turns on every dusk, creating perpetual daylight for a quarter mile around. They then buy two large dogs which bark all night and run off most of the wildlife. Whatever critters remain are called "varmints" and if they wander into the yard they're immediately killed. Finally, some flowers are planted, and a garden blog is set up to show off this little Eden plopped down in the majestic countryside. In addition to flower pictures, the blog will show the occasional snake (right before it's dispatched), and once in a while a songbird flopping about on the lawn, disoriented and losing its feathers from chronic chemical poisoning.
In my opinion a goodly percentage of country dwelling people should have stayed in town... preferably inside, watching television.
(Picture above, taken last year, is of a beautiful prairie kingsnake on our front stoop, looking for toads.)

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Just going to put in my two cents worth. Let throw in a home owners association in a huge neighborhood of one acre mini ranches. They require the home owners to mow the whole acre. This effectivly creates acres and acres of monoculture. Then everyone wonders why they don't have birds or squirrels. Nice :(
Well, I just mentioned last night that I don't get excited about snakes. This statement means that, while I'm not generally threatened by them, it's not a subject I feel the need to explore more intimately. ;-) (I was getting ready for this morning's tutoring session, and this little second grader LOVES the subject of snakes! We've been studying them for about three weeks, now!)
We have a big bull snake under the logs out back, hopefully keeping the mouse population at bay. Then there was a bitty baby snake in the grass the other day (not a garter) that has taken up residence under my sidewalk blocks in my new front bed. And, another garter snake that meanders between my yard and that of my neighbors... they're okay because they have just as much "purpose" as the next guy! :-)

Perhaps it's the old "fear of the unknown."
Oh gosh! Our neighbor does this! Squeals in fear as she describes murdering a whole nest with hedge shears! And she won't let us get rid of them (into our woods) for her! So much better to scream and have a panic and kill things.

Sorry for all the exclamation points. It just makes me so mad. And sick to my stomach.

I hope I don't fall into your category of people in the country. We do have close to three acres of mostly lawn, but we're trying to fix that. Plus get rid of the yard light. And replace the honeysuckle in the woods with natives. Also, we like the snakes - they eat the mice so the mice don't eat our things. But we are planning on getting big dogs - but unlike the neighbors they'll be inside at night.
Killing a harmless snake just for existing? Just disgusting, and despicable. And blogging about it? Clearly the snake wasn't too threatening if the blogger felt comfortable photographing it while it was cornered & thus, presumably, at its most dangerous? I hope you didn't hold back with your comments.

People's obsession with picture perfect lawns, flowerbeds, and outdoor living spaces (all with state-of-the-art weather-proof sound systems around the mega-gallon pools, of course) is not only accelerating the deterioration of our environment but also helping to further warp society's perceptions of what the "real" outdoors is like. It's bad enough that many people already have no clue about the origins of the food they eat. What's next? Perhaps purchasing no-fuss, no-muss animatronic models of the cute critters (eg. robo-bunnies) they'd like to see in their garden, while eradicating the real, live, ones?
I love the garter snakes we see round our property. They make me jump sometimes, but I wouldn't dream of killing them. A recent visitor to our home commented that our lawn was looking a bit 'old', which I think is a euphemism for 'full of weeds and unwatered'. Sorry, but that's the way it's going to stay!!

P.S. Stop reading that madwoman's blog right now!
Gul darnit a-fricken-men brotha!!! Holy s**t that's absolutely right! Thank you thank you thank you for the rant--even if you are preaching to the choir, the choir lifts up its voices even louder nonetheless with you!
Here here!

PS - If you were so inclined you could link-drop the person and we could all go leave her comments about her snake brutality ;) Just simple comments letting her know she is an ignorant ass, of course.
I must say... I love your blog. And your current rant was totally not part of your usual blogging habits. But I totally dig your rant LOL

I, too, live in Iowa, I live in a city, and love to garden. We moved into this house in Oct 2006, and the place already had 7 flower beds. It now has 7 plus two more in the works. I would fill the entire yard with trees, bushes, flowers, etc. if the dern children and (LARGE) dog (Who sleeps inside and only barks when we are teasing him with his toy, and when a stranger comes to the gate) who need to run and play ...

Anyways... Love your blog, Love your rant!
Thanks everybody for your extensive comments; I really appreciate them. I feel MUCH better after unloading on the snake killers. I'll have to admit I sometimes despair that all of the wild things are going to disappear eventually. When you are as old as I am, the changes in nature that have taken place are startling; so many, many things have disappeared already.

Good for you. We live in a northern community where people dispatch with dogs in cruel and unusual ways simply out of ignorance. It makes me very mad. As far as wildlife goes, I was very happy to see that frogs have moved into my flower gardens, which were created when we moved here 4 yrs ago. Before, it was a big ugly lawn. Welcome critters! (We're too far north for snakes, though so that will never be an issue here.)
ignorance sounds about right. I hope you left a comment on her page, explaining her mistake.

I suggest that you see if GardenRant will take this as a guest post.

The tone is spot-on and the subject matter needs to be more widely disseminated!

Jenn / Garden Djinn
Snakes do startle me in the garden occasionally but I'm always so glad to see them. Not only are they harmless to us, they are a great benefit to the garden, eating mice, voles and the like.

If anything I want more snakes. We have a couple big garters and milk snakes in the barn but I often wish a bull snake would show up and help with the moles and gophers.
Don, I really didn't need another blog in my life, but I'm so pleased with your writing and your garden photos, I think I'm hooked. I was doing an innocent web search on candy lily, and, well, you know how it goes...
It's so frustrating to practice permaculture and sustainability in an area of gas-powered, overfertilized neighbors. I feel your pain.
we HAD a neighbor who used to stand on a bridge he'd built over a creek and SHOOT at snakes. "They eat the fish," he'd say. He moved but sold the place to an ex-cop who, when he isn't laying out drunk, will sometimes do the same thing. They also like the creek bank "cleaned out" -- you'd think they'd never heard of riparian boarders. No amount of education would have made them hear of them either.

Enjoyed the rant. Thanks to thingfish for linking.
Hey - I loved your post and as a herpetologist and graduate student I truly wish there were more people who appreciated the worth of every animal on this planet as opposed to just the ones you can make a stuffed animal/plush toy out of.

The other thing I wanted to note is that your snake in the photograph is actually a Western Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpina) - the Prairie Kingsnake looks awfully similar but has several distinct differences, they also aren't nearly as common as fox snakes are in Iowa. I've got some photos of prairie kings if you'd be interested in seeing some sometime. My email is mpgraziano@gmail.com or mgraziano@mail.unomaha.edu

take care
Michael... thanks for your correction (I'll have to drag out my snake book).

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