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Straight Talk about Snakes

Snakes have always fascinated me. My first encounter was as a 6-year-old who just moved from Manhattan to Babylon. A snake slithered out of the hedgerow and right up to me, so I picked it up!

That’s where it all started. The neighborhood kids stopped in their tracks, their mouths wide open. My mother looked out the kitchen window and said, “WHAT IS THAT?”

Then the screaming started. My dad, a World War II veteran and New York City police officer, sprinted for his revolver.

Clearly everyone there had a preconceived idea of about the intentions of that snake.

Words like evil, slimy and venomous were clearly present. It was a surreal moment that left an indelible mark on me and ignited a spark that has burned passionately for decades.

Thousands of educational programs and countless encounters with snakes, and that city kid is doing just fine. I received a glimpse of nature’s grand plan and learned that all creatures play an important role. Hating any given group based on misinformation is the definition of prejudice.

The truth is as interesting as it is enlightening and needs to be told. So let’s set the record straight and dispel some myths about snakes.

1. Snakes are not slimy. So stop saying they are, ok? Their skin is bone dry, and being cold blooded, they don’t even perspire.

2. Not all snakes are venomous. Of the 3,300 known species on Earth, less than 10 percent of them have venom. And no venomous snakes are native to Long Island.

3. Snakes are not inherently evil. Yet bad press from the Bible to social media lingers.

4. Snakes don’t hypnotize their prey. They do stare, but that is not an attempt to mesmerize anyone. Snakes simply don’t have eyelids! So they are staring 24/7, even sleeping with their eyes wide open.

5. Snakes are not “charmed” by music. Despite the image of a cobra swaying out of the wicker basket, the reality is they lack ears, so they hear nothing. They are just reacting to the swaying of the musician, who they perceive as a threat.

So the snake that is so loathed I have strived to give a break to ever since.

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