Monday, July 11, 2011
Swimming With Snakes
Misidentified and Misunderstood
“There’s a copperhead down there in the creek bed. I wouldn’t go down there.”
“Thanks for the heads up” I said and continued to the stream as people piled out of a favorite swimming hole. Better visibility and more room for me. I knew it wasn’t a copper head. It was a northern water snake. The same kind of snake that bit Mike Rowe numerous times on my favorite Dirty Jobs episode.
Water snakes like any animal, including humans, will lash out when threatened or captured. So Mike was bitten time and again. I have never been bitten by a water snake, but then I’m not trying as hard. I don’t like snakes. I like to watch them, but I’m not big on handing them. Water snakes are common this time of year, and every time I see one in the water, I try to swim with it, but usually can’t keep up. They are incredibly striking animals, graceful and adept in the water, and fast on land. Unfortunately they are constantly confused with the poisonous copper head. Water snakes are not poisonous and will not come after people. Their diet is almost entirely fish and it is really amazing to watch them hunt and successfully snag a fish that are often surprisingly large for the snakes’ body size. But still they are regularly the target of rocks thrown by people who just don’t understand how harmless they are or how important they are to the stream system. Maybe they just can’t see past their unfounded fear to notice the beauty and agility of these extraordinary reptiles.