“How do you kill a snake?”
It was a legitimate question from an older resident of a care center we visited recently with our reptile program. Also in attendance was a group of preschoolers, children of some of the facility’s staff. We were intrigued by the differences in attitudes between the age groups.
Many of the older residents, most sitting in wheelchairs or beside their walkers, harbored preconceived notions regarding snakes, likely garnered from old wives’ tales, movies, legends, and (possibly) personal experience. “Don’t bring that thing near me!” one lady exclaimed with a grimace as I walked among them with a hognose snake so they could view its upturned snout.
Preschoolers, on the other hand, leaned forward eagerly for a better look. “Can I touch him?” several asked.
“That tongue is what they sting with,” another older resident commented as she leaned away from the garter snake flicking its tongue. She may not have believed me when I told her snakes smell with their tongues and it feels like being swiped with a piece of thread when it contacts skin.
“Snakes are cool!” announced a couple preschoolers as we allowed them to touch the scaly bodies.
The innocence of the young children had much to do with their ready acceptance of snakes. Our mission and hope is to create understanding of this misunderstood reptile so children will carry with them respect for these animals as they grow and discover the role snakes perform in an ecosystem.
How our younger generation feels about snakes as they mature all depends on education.
Although it can be difficult to change established attitudes, even the older participants at our program seemed more accepting of snakes after our presentation.
And in the process, even the woman who wanted me to “keep that thing away from” her ended up touching the garter snake!