July 16 is set aside each year as an official holiday recognizing snakes, believe it or not.

Why would there be a special day for snakes? Besides the fact that there seems to be a day set aside for appreciating just about everything, such doughnuts, redheads and corndogs, snake enthusiasts felt like the reptiles deserved their “moment in the spotlight,” so to speak. I agree that there needs to be more information and knowledge relayed to people in order to understand just how important snakes are to humans, the food chain and to bring balance in just about every ecosystem.

Snakes have been looked down upon, well, since the genesis of time. There have been myths and legends created and shared for over 10,000 years, inducing fear and dread in those who hear the stories. Even today, many people have a fear of snakes, including healthy and/or unhealthy ones. These reactions and responses continue to be passed down as the new generations watch and develop similar phobias as their parents.

There are healthy and unhealthy responses to snakes, and I believe World Snake Day was probably created to inform and educate, and to reduce the unhealthy fears that can create more problems for the snakes as well as for the environment.

In my opinion, unhealthy responses are the ones where people say “chop its head off and kill it” to each and every snake seen. I hear this all the time. It’s amazing how many people actually think that is what is best to do when any snake is observed. The best thing to do when a snake is seen outside of the home is to move away and leave the snake alone, or if it’s in a park or a yard, stay back and rustle a stick or stone on the ground to frighten it away. Most snakes do not like being around people and will move away if given the chance. The only time they usually strike is if they feel threatened or are protecting young.

Only kill a snake is if it is poisonous and is putting a person or pet in danger. Most snakes around this area are nonpoisonous and really are not a threat to anyone. If fact, to kill them is to remove an important means of keeping rodents and other small pests from overpopulating.

Hollywood movies have probably done the most damage in spreading misinformation. Snakes don’t hunt people down, take over a plane, or hypnotize you with their eyes. It makes a good story line but has done rodent-eating snakes a disservice.

The best thing to do is educate ourselves and our family members about where snakes like to live and hunt and how to approach areas in nature safely. This can be done without creating hysteria or misinformation and may even save some species from becoming endangered.

Another important area for educating others is how to have snakes as pets, and understand the importance of not letting them free outside when they get too big or the owner gets tired of caring for them. This also can cause an imbalance and an invasive species situation.

Darla Horner Menking is an outdoor enthusiast and Herald correspondent. Contact her at darla.menking@gmail.com.

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