Our winter lectures continue this coming Saturday, February 4th, with guest speaker Anne Stengle who will present Conserving the Timber Rattlesnake in Massachusetts. Anne is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst. Her research focuses on understanding the fundamental physiology of snakes and, most recently, on the population genetics and ecology of the Timber Rattlesnake.
I’ve been working as a naturalist or interpreter for a long time and one of my biggest pet peeves is the completely irrational fear of snakes that some people exhibit (this most recently happened on Wednesday afternoon and boy, was that a doozy!). A bigger pet peeve? When parents pass this completely irrational fear of snakes on to their children- please don’t do that. Snakes are actually very cool creatures, adapted to a life much different than one can imagine. If you take the time to learn more about them, maybe by picking up the new Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Massachusetts from MassWildlife, you may find that snakes are pretty interesting creatures worthy of a little respect.
So why the irrational fear? Is it because of Adam and Eve or Indiana Jones? Is it because they have no legs? Did you have an experience that you might have misinterpreted because you inherited an irrational fear of snakes? Perhaps one of the reasons this bothers me so much is the umpteen times people have brought chopped up Milk Snakes to me that they’ve discovered in their yards, murdered, then come for a positive ID.
“There is no need to fear snakes: the majority are no more dangerous than your average Blue Jay” (quoting from aforementioned field guide). Yes, there are two venomous snakes in Massachusetts, the Timber Rattlesnake and the Copperhead (we do not have Water Moccasins, aka Cottonmouths here, they don’t occur further north than southeastern Virginia) and yes, if you come across them don’t harass them. Both are rare, endangered species due in part to that irrational fear.
This lecture couldn’t come at a better time, with the proposal to introduce this endangered species at the Quabbin being debated. I hope that you will come with an open mind and check your fears at the door.
For more information, as well as a complete list of upcoming events, visit the calendar section of our website.