Ignorance and Machismo Cause Snake Deaths

Several years ago, a man in Denver draped his “pet” 11-foot Burmese python around his neck. Undoubtedly he had engaged in this practice before. But this time, the python tightened, eventually suffocating its owner.

Not a Necklace

In previous blog articles, we have covered using a snake as a necklace and have advised against it. We also cover this topic in our reptile program in schools because, like humans, snakes fear falling, and their only recourse is holding on. A constrictor this large can kill a person in less than two minutes. While wildlife authorities attempted to rescue this snake and display it for education purposes, the snake was ultimately destroyed.

Not good nor bad

Snakes are neither “good” nor “bad.” Their only objectives are eating and self-preservation. They don’t randomly search out victims for the pleasure of killing them unless they are hungry and the victim is small enough to swallow.

Recent Incident

Recently, an 18-year-old boy near Tampa, Florida, caused the death of another snake. Although the young man had the option of leaving the cottonmouth alone, he caught it and held it captive in a pillowcase on his bed for two days.

Snakes are excellent escape artists, and at some point this venomous snake escaped from the pillowcase and the teenager grabbed it and held it close to his chest. The snake then bit him on the face, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson, Gary Morse, reported by Tampa’s Channel 8 WFLA.

Emergency crews transported the teen to the hospital. And, although it had had no choice in the matter, the snake was killed to use for identification. Had the teen left the snake to go about its business, neither would have been harmed. Ignorance and machismo dealt a hand in this unnecessary encounter.

Thwarted by Schools

This past winter we had been invited to Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge near DeLand, Florida, to provide outreach to schools and other facilities with our reptile program. However, except for one school, we were thwarted in our efforts to bring our program into the classrooms to help children understand what to do if they encounter a snake either on the playground or at home. Either the schools feared allowing live snakes into the classrooms, or they feared allowing strangers in the building, regardless that we were sponsored by U.S. Fish & Wildlife and had gone through an extensive federal background check.

Education is the Key

Without proper education, we can only expect more incidents such as the ones with the Tampa teen and the python owner. “This is what we face every day of the week,” says zookeeper and rattlesnake researcher Bryon Shipley. “Lack of knowledge. I talk to people who have very little idea about how snakes live, and few of them take the time to learn about it.”

Perhaps if we had been permitted into Florida classrooms with our program this winter, other children in the future would be spared the agony and humiliation that the Tampa teen endured.

And other snakes would be spared their lives to continue their role in nature.

[box type=”info”]For a list of fatal snakebites in the United States, as well as their causes, click on this link. Most people who are bitten by snakes are trying to pick them up, injure them, or kill them. [/box]


3 thoughts on “Ignorance and Machismo Cause Snake Deaths”

  1. This article stokes home with me. My biggest fear as a reptile lover is the misunderstanding and lack of education people have for reptiles.

  2. Wondering where you got the information about the man in Denver?We’ve only been able to find 2 actual documented cases of death by snake, a baby in FLori da in which case the animal was found in an emancipated state, and a student in New York who made a serious feeding mistake that cost him his life.
    We hear lots of “stories” which are nothing more than passed along “rumors”.
    Living in Fort Collins Colorado, just north of Denver, we’ve been unable to verify this incident. Would appreciate knowing your source, because if it is verifiable we would like to use it in our own educational presentations.
    If it’s not veverifiable, it should not be presented as fact.
    Thanks so much,.and we love and appreciate your letters and the work you do!


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