Surprise Encounters

Who hasn’t been startled occasionally by a surprise encounter with wildlife? Perhaps the most startling encounter would be with a bear, a moose, a javelina, a large spider, or even …………. a snake.

Many people are repulsed by these scaly, slithering serpents. The mere thought of a snake can send some into fits of revulsion. Show them a picture of a snake and they may never speak to you again.

Hasn’t Everyone?

But haven’t we all, at one time or another, been startled by a snake?

On a dive trip to the Honduran island of Roatan some years ago, we took time to visit their botanic gardens. Immediately after entering the gardens, Chuck spotted a basilisk lizard on the trail. Because we’d never before seen one in the wild, the emerald green lizard captivated us for some time as it merely rested on the trail, still as a statue. We watched it until it sprinted away to cover. As we progressed along the trails, we came across more basilisk lizards, each time enthralled by their beauty.

After an hour or so exploring the gardens, we reached the summit of a small hill where I heard a rustle in a bush we passed by. As Chuck continued walking, I stopped to investigate. Thinking I would find another shimmering green lizard, I bent down and parted the limbs to peer inside. But instead of a lizard, I came face to face with a very large boa constrictor.

“Holy cow!” I exclaimed, or something to that effect, and Chuck immediately stopped and returned to my side. I felt myself trembling a bit as I tried to slow my breathing to a less than fluttering rate. “I had no idea…….” As I regained my composure, the snake slithered away, more than likely as startled to encounter me as I was to see it. And I began envisioning possibilities. Was it big enough to constrict me? Would it hurt if it had bitten me? If it had bitten me, would it have constricted around my arm and would I be able to remove it?

No One Immune

No one is immune to being disconcerted by a snake encounter. Chuck admits that he was alarmed one time as he came across a bullsnake in a ravine in Colorado. “It was more aggressive than any rattlesnake,” says Chuck. “It hissed and wiggled its tail imitating a rattlesnake, and it struck in my direction.”

And we were both startled once in a dry wash in southwest Arizona when we rounded a boulder and suddenly heard a buzzing sound. “Rattlesnake!” we told each other as we halted and surveyed the area to locate the reptile. The buzzing continued, and we finally spotted a Western Diamondback coiled against a rock. As we stood still and watched, it slowly backed away, rattling all the while, and disappeared under a bush.


“They make a living by staying out of sight,” Chuck later said, “so it’s easy not to see them.”

Perhaps that’s why it’s so startling to encounter a snake in the wild. Since camouflage is one of their defenses, surprise encounters can be disconcerting, initially leaving a person at a loss for what kind of snake it is or what its intentions might be.

As for the snake, it has no interest in startling or being startled and would rather avoid encounters with people.


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