Growing up in the backwoods of Kentucky Appalachia, my grandma learned to identify poisonous snakes — copperheads, water moccasins (also known as cottonmouth) and timber rattlesnakes. But she hated all snakes. So she always kept a hoe nearby.
And the kids were warned about the dog days of summer quite often in rural Scioto County. Grandma was taught that snakes shed their skin during this time, and when it covers their eyes, they are more prone to strike and bite. Depending on whose story you choose to believe, dog days last anywhere from 20 up to about 60 days.
One hot summer day, the birds were carrying on in the old apple tree on the hill by Grandma Hila’s house. Screeching, squawking and circling, the birds kept it up. “There’s a snake trying to eat their eggs or babies,” she exclaimed. Grabbing her hoe, she trotted off with a gaggle of grandkids following. We waited, and soon a huge snake slithered down the tree with a giant neck bulge. Grandma swung that hoe and severed the head in one blow. She chopped close to the bulge and found a dead bird. She heaved a sigh because she well-regarded all animals, except snakes.
If was only after I watched the television shows (as an adult) by host Steve Irwin, nicknamed the Crocodile Hunter, that I came to respect snakes — but I still don’t like them.
Fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias. What is the fear of snakes called? My grandma and mother would exclaim, “Smart!” But Ophidiophobia is the official word for an abnormal fear factor connected to slithering legless reptiles.
“There are only three venomous, or poisonous, snakes in Ohio. These are the Eastern timber rattlesnake, northern copperhead and the massasauga rattlesnake,” according to the Ohio History Connection. www.ohiohistorycentral.org.
And according to a 2015 article in the Telegraph Forum, “Timber rattlers, for example, are found in Adams, Scioto, Pike, Ross, Gallia, Jackson, Vinton and Hocking counties. They’re the most dangerous snakes in northeastern American, mostly because they reach lengths in excess of six feet, though they average only about 40 inches.” www.bucyrustelegraphforum.com.
The black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta) is the largest species of snake in Ohio. Both the black and gray rat snakes feed on mice, rats and copperhead snakes. “It is one of the most beneficial predators in Ohio. It excels in controlling rodent populations. Unfortunately, because it often lives close to humans, it is the most frequently killed species of snake. This is because of its large size and a general human fear toward all snakes.” www.ohiohistorycentral.org.
“Every single day of our lives involves wildlife education. We must teach, spread the word, the wildlife gospel,” proclaimed Steve Irwin.
Snakes play an important role in our ecosystems. July 16 is World Snake Day, a day devoted to awareness and appreciation of snakes.
“No, snakes are no problem. I’d go to any country, anywhere, any snakes, not a problem,” declared Steve Irwin.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.