snake phobia PLEASE help moving to snake country

reddbuffalo(Zone 7 DC)October 22, 2005

Hi, city dweller here forced by high price of real estate to move 35 miles outside of city to buy a decent house. thing is, it's backing a golf course and i KNOW there are snakes there. of course i want to garden but i'm terrified of snakes. i don't want to EVER EVER EVER reach down to pick a strawberry or pull a weed and see a coiled up something or other snake, i dont care if it's poisonous or not!!

SO.. any other snake phobics out there! i know you're out there!??! HOW can i prevent these critters from getting on my property. I'll even build a WALL if i need to out of brick!!!!! would this help or do snakes even travel underground and then pop up. i don't know much about snakes, i know, for those of you who can bear them, i know they are good for environemnt, eat bad critters etc, etc. none of this matters to me. Let them live in peace, OFF my property and OUT of my garden!!

i hope someone can give me some ideas! i suggested to my husband that we get an electric fence to repel snakes a la dog electric fences, but then he pointed out that we'd have to collar all the snakes! ha ha ha


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I don't know of any solution to this problem. Maybe someone else does. I am not wild about snakes myself but can appreciate their right to be outside in my yard. I think you might consider facing your fears and dealing with this phobia. I really think you would be better off in the long run, because it will cripple your ability to function in the outdoor environment. You are right, snakes are very good for the ecosystem. Can you find a psychologist that can help you with this phobia? Wouldn't you be happier if you weren't terrified of them? How will you ever truly prevent them from coming on your property and how can you garden in peace knowing that one might be out there?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2005 at 4:24PM
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Try hypnotism (and I'm not just saying that because I'm a hypnotist). Wear heavy gloves up to your elbows when gardening as an armor against the snakes. I lived in an apartment once that had a snake hole at the dog park there. About a dozen or so snakes (don't know what kind they were) would sun bathe in the A.M. right next to their hole, then retreat into their hole for the rest of the day. Of course, they were terrified of my dogs, who chase anything that moves. Maybe you could get a dog/gardening companion. And just remember: they're more scared of you, than you are of them!!


    Bookmark   October 22, 2005 at 7:44PM
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Kat67(NW, FL)

They say moth balls work but I don't know. I don't care for snakes either and I live around rattle snakes. Cats and dogs are our best option. Dogs will most time warn you.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2005 at 9:37PM
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I think you are a city girl. You might eventually learn to live with the local snakes-they don't move very fast, and its easy enough to walk the other way when you see one. It's not really necessary to run.

I'm not sure that there are snakes living in the golf course nearby. Golf course managers use herbicides to keep the weeds down. I would be surprised to learn that snakes can survive and thrive in this environment.

I agree with the suggestion to keep a dog. Dogs are very curious about anything that moves in the yard, and they love to sniff out signs of the local critters. At least, our black lab does. She has to know about every rabbit and raccoon that visits our yard.

Personally, I am not a big fan of spiders. But spiders live in the city, in the country, and everywhere in between. So I am never quite safe.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2005 at 10:18PM
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I've been gardening in Virginia for well over 45 years and I've never encountered a snake in the gardens or flower beds. I was taught at a young age to make lots of noise and shuffle my feet a lot while in the garden. I even tend my mother-in-law's large patch of ivy (a favorite snake hiding place) but when I do I take a rake and gently beat around in it till I'm sure no critters are hiding there.

Snakes are very afraid of you and will do everything in their power to avoid meeting up with the gardener who makes his presence known. All of that said, be sure if you're working in thick vegetation that you have on sturdy shoes, long pants, and gloves. There's no point in being careless even if the danger is very minimal. You're much more likely to get a cut from some garden tool or be stung by an angry bee or hornet than you are to be bitten by a snake.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 12:15PM
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Hi there. Think about why you dislike snakes so very much. It is our societal voices that tell us which animals are good and what animals are bad. Snake o-phobia is deeply entrenched in a societal voice that has nothing to do with logic, reason or animals.

Snakes are a vertebrate, just like you. In the first 5 weeks of life as an embryo, all vertebrates at this stage of life are indistinguishable from one another. A bird, snake, lizard, fish and human embryo all look alike and require careful scientific study to identify a snake embryo vs a human embryo in the first 5 to 6 weeks of life.

Think in terms of what is really an animal good for the human specie. Number 1, if it is a native specie, it CREATES, maintains, sustains and supports its ecosystem. A wild snake is most assuredly a native specie and has a job to perform for his ecosystem. Humans breathe oxygen and have fresh water to drink because of ecosyStems. Humankind is alive because of ecosystems. Earth is a living planet because of ecosystems. National Academy of Sciences: "The extinction of Earth's biological diversity [i.e., native species like snakes] is a threat to civilization second only to global thermonuclear war."

Snakes are the perfect rodent control. Their bodies are designed for their ecosystems to slide easily down a rat hole. Their job for Earth's ecosystems, i.e., man's life support systems,is rodent control, to trim the populations of rodents to fit the ecosystem.

Snakes are merely lizards without legs. I have transported baby rattle snakes back into their ecosystem (coffee can with lid) and have walked right over a rattle snake while hiking. My favorite animal on Earth is the fence lizard and have had many wild pets that have enriched my life immeasurably. My love for lizards is one of my top life's joys. Reptiles, with the exception of a few anatomical differences, are birds. Look at the feet and legs of a bird. See the snake skin??

In reality, snakes are one of man's best friends -- ecologically. They have a job to perform to keep mankind living. Snakes also have pour eyesight, which places them at a distinct disadvantage. Interesting enough, this society's sacred cows are in reality Earth killers as they both kill wildlife, i.e., biological diversity and have no job to perform for any ecosystem in USA. If your dogs and cats are slaughtering birds, snakes, lizards, frogs, butterflies, coyote puppies and foxes, then they are extinguishing the strands in the web of all life. Cats and dogs are not strands in the web of all life, but snakes are a big, major strand in the web of all life. Domestic cats allowed outdoors slaughter 4.5 million birds daily, and the lion's share of these are native! Each and every day. Snakes, including rattlers, are no match for the unnatural, introduced, non-native domestic cat, a killer predator that each day, causes immense ecological damage.

Societal voices are ecologically ignorant voices, totally out of step with reality. It isn't important what Humankind thinks about snakes; what does Earth think about snakes, a job holder in the Earth's work force of all life, including Earth's.

If wildlife and birds are native, you are looking at the reason you are alive. To Earth, tessyt. What is Earth's opinion about her snakes?????

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 3:27PM
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I forgot. Each year, many more people are killed by dogs than snakes, bears and lions combined. Of course, more people are killed by automobile related incidents every year than all animal attacks combined.

Today, I live and can barely sleep at night because arthritis settled into my back and neck as a result of sustaining 7 automobile accidents. [None our fault!] I cannot even sleep on my side because of neck pain resulting from all these car collisons. Though I have been in contact with a plethora of snakes, including poisonous, I never sustained any kinda injury from them.

Interesting how societal voices work their magic. Ecological illiteracy, a scientific label, is even more rampant than snake craziness. Yet, what American thinks about their lives being ruined or death by the ubiquitos car. If everyone's head was screwed on right, they would trash their cars and hug a snake. Of course, if everyone quit driving their cars, the economy would go extinct and the top wealthiest would go bankrupt, and we certainly couldn't have that. tessyt, a bottom feeder

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 6:38PM
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Elly_NJ(NJ z6)

Learn about them.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 10:08AM
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If it is any peace of mind, the only venomous snake that even has the potential to live within 50 miles of Washington DC is the copperhead and it is unlikely that they range within 35 miles of the city. You can find them in the mountains of NW Maryland if you look really hard.

That said, I realize your fear is of all snakes. Unfortunately there is not much that can deter snakes. Some people use a commercial repellant called Snake-A-Way but personally I think that product is nothing more than a get rich scheme for enterprising capatalists who prey on the fears of snakephobes. I don't think the stuff works.

A brick wall might attract snakes.

The best way to keep snakes out of your yard is to keep the grass down and keep vegetation away from the house.

And in fairness to the snakes, when you want them off "your property" bear in mind that it is actually you and not them who is invading someone else's turf. No worries though, as long as you leave them be, they won't object to sharing their space.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 12:23PM
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Reptiles are my favorite animals. For purely practical reasons, I wish I had about ten snakes on my property as I have a horrible rat problem. We are supposed to have snakes on our property.

Rats, a non-native animal weed, have destroyed many of my plants. I am not want to use rodenticides because I live on the edge of a fragmented ecosystem, one of the most diverse on Earth and have many raptors very near, including a great horned owl, that has killed at least one rat on our property. I am afraid to poison this huge populations of rats because I fear a raptor or owl will get poisoned food and die.

We are supposed to have snakes around our homes. If not, this a red alert that the ecosystem is dying or dead.

A deer just killed a man here, but without native wildlife or biological diversity (native plants and animals), "There's too much safety in the long run." Sometimes, we think we are making our world a safer place while at the same time, we are killing our home, Earth. Population losses and the extinction of biological diversity is scientifically killing Earth, specie by specie. "In Wildness is the Salvation of the Earth and Preservation of all life. Long known among mountains, hills, canyons, chaparral, coyotes, deer, snakes, frogs, birds and lizards - but SELDOM PERCEIVED BY MAN. Snakes are here for a reason; they have a job to perform for our living Earth, man's only home. Even a bird doesn't destroy his nest. Each day, with brain numbing cliches and flawed societal voices, man kills his only home, Earth, tessyt In Wildness is the Salvation of the Earth...

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 3:01PM
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reddbuffalo(Zone 7 DC)

to ALL of you who have responded, THANK YOU. I want to reply more thoughfully to you all as you made me think, and made me laugh and made me commiserate about western society as well, but I don't have enough time to write with thought right now, so in the meantime just wanted to say THANKS and i'll write again soon to you all!!!!!

City Girl Snake Phobe in DC moving to Virginia

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 5:18PM
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reddbuffalo(Zone 7 DC)

hi again.. okay thank you all again. You know it's funny about snakes. I think it's just a matter of having grown up in the city and not being used to them. I've actually come across a few during my life, mostly when i was in summer camp as a chid, and i remember running to my bunk with heart palpitations! i think what scares me about them is that they slither and then they could jump out at you if scared and bite you. i think it's partially the element of surprise with them, that they hide and then jump up!!! i guess i'll learn to live with them and get used to them, although i hear that they are not commonly seen, but once is enough for me. I guess you know it's just that i really want to spend a lot of time in the garden, and I just feel that everytime i step out into the garden i'll have this fear that maybe there is a snake out there, it's always possible!! it's silly i know.... but it's just unpleasant to think about it as i'm used to just going out into the garden and dealing with slugs!!! it just kind of upsets me NOT to have that freedom to just step out and enjoy without worrying about slithering biting creatures, even while respecting their right to be there! I dont want to hurt them... i think there are copperheads out there too, but i'll find out for sure.

I love the idea of making lots of noise and shuffle when you go out. that's a great idea. and the doggie idea, well i'm close to getting a dog anyway!!!!

and to tessyt, you make some wonderful and beautiful points. and i hear you loud and clear and feel similar things about our society on many levels. please know that i really do appreciate snakes' role in our ecosystem, and what you wrote made me at least remember that respect for snakes and their role. maybe this might help me a little bit to rid myself of the fear of them, but again, it's that element of surprise with snakes.... i would gladly hug a snake though if in doing so i could rid the earth of SUVs. I totally hear what you are saying.

thank you all again!! i am feeling more brave now and also just understanding that in making the tranisition to a country-ish setting, that i'll just have to learn to deal!!!!!

thanks again!!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 12:45AM
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reddbuffalo: Good Luck. I hope you do not run into any snakes. I live on the edge of an ecosystem and should have had many snakes in my yard, but I do not. In the 15 years I've lived here, I have had only three snakes visit my property, and only one was, venonmous (sp.) a baby rattler.

Just remember, if you discover one while gardening, just remain in control of the situation and not panic. More than not, you'll be able to quietly walk away from the snake by making a very wide u-turn, head to the house, and just in a little while, he'll head to somewhere else. None of my snake visitors stayed. They were gone swiftly.

I guess I just want anything that gets rid of rats cause the rats haven't chomped on so many of my plants and killed them. By the way, in native American culture, snakes were revered as they were thought to be messengers from the spirit world. The native Americans possessed a different worldview and societal voice. They were the planet's best ecologists in history.

I hope your garden bursts with flowers and gorgeous plants, the best in all things, tt

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 1:13AM
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jillmcm(z6 PA)

It might help to think of it this way - while living in the city, you did not have the freedom to step out your front door without a significant risk of becoming a victim of random, violent crime.

No snakes are going to be looking to harm you in the country. Unlike a thief, a rapist, a drive-by shooter, they will be doing their best to disappear before you ever see them. And even if you do accidentally disturb a snake, biting is a last resort for them. They truly are more frightened of you than you are of them. And their behavior is predictable, unlike that of a criminal.

Just some food for thought.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 12:51PM
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garden4wildlife(z8 GA)

For your problem, reddbuffalo, I think Elly's advice is the best so far: learn about snakes. Find some info online or check out some books about snakes at the library. You're less likely to be scared of them if you understand them. You might even come to appreciate and admire them (even if from a distance!). As many other people have pointed out, you're unlikely to come across snakes. They usually are aware of you before you're aware of them, and they will usually high tail it in the opposite direction. Very few snakes will stick around to encounter a human when they have the opportunity to escape. Make your presence known when you go outside. Stomp and shuffle your feet. Use a broom handle to gently poke around in clumps of grass or shrubbery to scare off snakes that may be in there. I see evidence of snakes frequently - shed skins - but I only come across a live snake once every two or three months in my yard, at work (I work mostly outside, too), or during my frequent trips to nature preserves. Considering all the time I spend outside, all the excellent snake habitat and abundunt food in these areas, and the skins I see all the time, I know there are snakes all around here. There are dozens of nonvenemous snake species here in GA/SC, and around a dozen venemous ones if memory serves (give or take). Of all the snakes I come across, the only venemous ones I've ever seen are copperheads (my most frequently encountered venemous snake), cottonmouths (rarely), and various rattlesnakes (very rarely). Even those snakes really have no interest in people. You leave them alone, and they'll leave you alone the vast majority of the time. An interesting statistic I heard on Animal Planet's Venom ER (I think that's the name of it) was that 1/3 of all snakebite cases involved alcohol. Telling, isn't it? lol As far as the dog idea, you certainly shouldn't get one just to warn you about snakes. I always hate when people suggest a dog or cat as some kind of "quick fix" for any kind of unwanted animal problem. In the first place, unless you specifically train your dog to warn you about snakes, it may not care that snakes are around and will ignore their presence, so you wouldn't know one way or the other if there are snakes there. Or it may turn out to be a dog that barks at everything outside, so you won't know if it's barking at a snake, or a squirrel, or a millipede, or a falling leaf, get the idea. But more importantly, dogs are a serious commitment of at least 10 years if you start with a puppy or young dog. Be sure that you have the time a dog needs - you are the dog's pack, and dogs that don't live in packs are very unhappy dogs - as well as the money to properly take care of a dog. Dog food and vet bills aren't cheap.

And just to clear up a few things... Snakes won't jump out at you. If you do happen to see one, it's far more likely that it will either be sitting motionless, or it will be slithering away from you as fast as it can. Snakes are not "lizards without legs." Lizards (Sauria) and snakes (Serpentes) are distinct suborders in the Order Squamata. Snakes are not designed solely for eating rodents; there are many snakes the world over that eat mammals other than rodents - very large mammals, in some parts of the world - as well as some snakes that eat other reptiles (including other snakes), or birds, or eggs, and so on. They all have the same basic body design, but they are adapted to move for their particular niches (such as the ones with arboreal prey being adapted to be excellent tree climbers).

Tessy, there are many rats native to California. Also, be sure that what you think are rats are not actually native voles, shrews, and mice. Many people confuse those three types of rodents with rats. The "domestic" Old World rats, usually Norway or black rats, that have been introduced are not likely to be in your yard in large numbers unless you live right next to a landfill or a big city. Norway rats in California (these are the type that are sold in pet stores, usually, and are very intelligent, adaptive, and agile) are more or less found just in heavily populated areas. They stick close to human hubs of activity because that's where the best source of food is. Even if you do live near an area with a lot of Old World introduced rats, I doubt that they're the ones that are bothering your plants unless you have tasty fruits and vegetables growing. They're more likely to be raiding your garbage can. Voles, on the other hand, are voracious eaters and are known to cause occasional, severe damage to garden plants. I'm putting a link to a webpage about wild rats in California (although most of the info applies elsewhere, too). There are some very interesting tidbits there, plus a map of the distribution of Norway rats in CA.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wild Rats

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 4:14PM
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gardenforwildife: As I carry a scientific label, ecological literate, I know too well the differences in animals. Only native animals and plants are biological diversity, the living components that create, sustain, support and maintain the physical body of our living Earth. Yes, I would be absolutely devastated if I killed a native wood rat. I not only recognize, native species are vital to the continued existence of man and Earth because of ecosystems' "life-support systems", but I have had a lifelong love for any animal or plant that is wild and native.

I think the fragmented ecosystem behind my house is dying as I have not seen many snakes in 15 years. I should have lots of snakes on my property because of the hillside of chaparral/oak woodland/ecosystem.

I have assumed the rats getting into my composter [have actually chewed the plastic to get in] are roof rats. They are large and grey, and they love, love my composter.

I am going to check out your link, Wild Rats because it would kill me to hurt or harm biological diversity like our native mammals and reptiles.

I was going to include the statement about most snakebites occurring because a human is drunk and tries to pick up a snake. Surprise Surprise! Years ago, the LA times did an expose on snake bites. Almost all were alcohol related. People that get drunk, try to pick up snakes. I guess a numb brain dispels societal ignorance and prejudices.

Do you know if a root rat is a Norway rat in CA? Thanks so much for trying to shed light on snake phobias. "In Wildness is the salvation of the Earth and the preservation of all life." H. Thoreau, Thank you,tt

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 5:23PM
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garden4wildlife(z8 GA)

Rattus norvegicus is the Norway, aka domestic, aka brown rat. It should be noted that the common name "brown rat" is deceiving - these rats can come in all sorts of patterns and colors as pets, although in the wild you'll probably only see them in solid brown or greyish. These are the kind you generally find for sale as pets; they are highly social and extremely intelligent for a rodent. They quickly learn routines and patterns and they can solve simple puzzles. I've had several pet rats (of this species). They can figure out how to open things that aren't firmly secured, they can tear or chew through most things except thick or very hard metal and stone, they can manipulate things with their hand-like paws, they can balance, jump, climb, and swim unbelievably well. They're amazing little creatures. It's no wonder that they do so well in the wild, which can be unfortunate for the native animals in areas where they've been introduced. These rats tend to live below houses when they live around humans, or in the ground, often digging burrows and tunnels more than a foot deep, living in small groups. Norway rats more often tend to be truly feral - living further away from people, less dependent on human activity - than the other major introduced rat, the roof rat.

The roof, aka black, rat (Rattus rattus) also has a common name that isn't entirely correct; they may be brown or black. Their other common name, roof rat, is perhaps more accurate. Roof rats do indeed tend to be found in or on the tops of buildings, often in attics or rafters, although they are occasionally found living near the ground. These usually are found very close to people, not often as truly feral colonies in the wild.

As for native California rats, I don't know much about those. I doubt we have many, if any, rat species in common on our opposite sides of the continent with very different habitats. I did a quick search on google and came up with a list of California rodents. You can click on a species and it gives you a brief description, a sketch, and a distribution map. It has both native and nonnative rodents listed.

Here is a link that might be useful: California rodents

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 11:10PM
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reddbuffalo(Zone 7 DC)

interesting comment about the snakes in the country vs. crime in the city. i guess it really boils down to what you are used to! of course living in a city all my life I am hardened to the possiblity of crime and go about my biz without a thought of it's possibility!!! perhaps that's how folks raised in the country feel about snakes; blissful ignorance of the possibility. but again, it all comes down to your comfort level; for me, city life is comfortable, known and i understand the "dangers." country life is as yet unknown to me. and mind you, the area i'm likely to go to, for those who might know, is gainesville, va, which is really not "country" anymore but a developed bedroom community.... and yet i know my chances of running to a snake are way higher than here in the city. having said that, now i'm terribly worried about VOLES and their damage to my garden! I've already decided to tastefully fence the garden to keep the cute and adorable bunnies out so that I can grow my vegetables for food (although I honestly worry about the herbicide runoff from the golf course that is in back of the house and the state of the soil there!!!).. but voles, there is no way to control them so i understand and it's heratbreaking not to mention expensive to plant stuff and have voles chew them off underground!!

on and to garden4wildlife.. i would never just get a dog to deal with snakes! i love animals ( i have 2 cats already) and well the doggie would be my buddy and if he/she helped with snake stakeout even the better!!! but that would not be my primary reason at all for getting a dog!!!!!!! just want to be clear on this since i'm a good pet parent!! : )

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 10:55AM
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garden4wildlife: I got my answer from your suggested link. Yes, where I live is Norway rat established. So, I am hoping the rats attracted to my composter are Norway rats. Isn't the native wood rat brown? The rats in my composter are always a gray.

reddbuffalo: We have an elderly pug. As we live on the edge of a fragmented ecosystem, she never goes out in the back yard unless someone is with her. This is not only to protect her from wild animals, but we wouldn't want her to injure or kill smaller species of biological diversity, like frogs, lizards or fledgling birds that do not fly well. She always has a human companion with her when she goes outdoors for her protection and the protection of the strands in the web of all life; the rivets in spaceship Earth; and the mortar and bricks of man's house, Earth.

Scientifcally translated: Killing native species (biological diversity) is synonymous with killing Earth. If the animal or invertebrate is native/wild, it is a strand in the web of all life. In wildness is the salvation of the EArth, the best tt

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 3:25PM
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Interesting concept Redbuffalo. I have always lived in a suburban/rural setting and have felt uncomfortable even travelling into the city until I started doing more of it recently. When a halfway house for city kids (that had been in trouble) moved to our neighborhood, I was surprised to find out that they rarely want to leave the premises of the house because they are terrified of things in the country. This is the first I had heard of someone being afraid of being out in the country. To me, it seems far safer, but thinking about it, it is really our brains' ability to habituate to stimuli. We are always on a heighteneds state of alert when we are out of the element that we have been desensitized to. The good news is that with all the strategies you have been given, you will eventually become desensitized and comfortable in the country. You will come to know how rare it is to run into a wild animal. As Jill says, most will avoid humans whenever possible. In fact, most of us look at it as a treat and we relish those chance spottings. I don't honestly think I've ever heard anyone from the city saying that about crime and criminals! ;o)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 4:02PM
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vonyon: UC Irvine did a comprehensive study on the human brain for rapture and joy responses with electrodes connected to the brains of the human studies. First, they showed the individuals photos. of the most beautiful architecture they could find. Secondly, they showed the individuals photos. of magnificent landscaped areas designed by humans. Then they presented photos. of wild places and wild animals.

The human brain responded with the greatest joy when showed pictures of wild places and things. There was a dramatic response to untouched wilderness, way more so than the other two responses.

I believe the love of pure nature is part of man's history on Earth when he lived and thrived in wild places with wild animals. It is wired into the human brain because of our specie's past. This is why humans enjoy gardening and pets. In our history, man lived with a great diversity of wild animals and plants. It is wired into our brains.

I don't know about anyone else, but I thrill/ rapture when I'm in the wild. When I see a wild animal or even a butterfly, my heart reacts with absolute joy. Tragically, the less nature we have, the more man is divorced from his beginnings, his real home, Earth.

If we were to take a twenty-four hour clock, all of man's history on Earth would take up all the time but about 3 minutes to midnight. Civilization began at 3 minutes to midnight. The vast majority of man's time on Earth was spent small scale hunting and gathering in the wild.

Social scientists report that small scale hunting& gathering was the most successful lifestyle for man. He had to work infinitely less time for the basics [shelter and food], and he had almost twice the amount of leisure time. If he wanted an onion, he just dug one up.

It is interesting, in spite of snakes, bears and lions, our specie did beautifully as small scale hunters and gatherers and had so much more leisure time with nothing to do but play and rest. It is the civilized man that has to work sooooo long and hard for the basics.

Our history is dramatically wired into our brains, the best tt

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 4:46PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

Hey there Reddbuffalo!
First of all, there's been a lot of good advice already put forth here, but I thought of one thing I would add: there is a rather new form of therapy out now which addresses fears and phobias through the use of virtual realities. I have read about it and it sounds promising: the thing that is causing the fear or trauma is synthesized through use of computers and you are able to experience it enough to learn to overcome your anxieties. Unfortunately I am not a techie and can't truly explain how it is done but it uses computer generated images and blue screens like they use anymore in all the movies... the thinking is that you can meet your fears head on and learn to master them.
Now a less complicated method does exist, and it's the one I would try first: like Ellie said, read. Educate yourself about reptiles, snakes...heck, anything in the natural world that scares you....but I would go one step further: try to actually go places where you can see these wonderful creatures up close and with someone who will answer your questions and even let you touch them. I know this is tough and I know they scare you, but you can move past that and eventually see them for what they are: a wonderful, valuable part of this world. No one expects you to become a overnight herp convert and suddenly start covering your fridge with snake magnets and such, but maybe in time your fear will give way to something gentler for everyone-you and the wildlife you encounter.

I wish you the best

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 10:54PM
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reddbuffalo(Zone 7 DC)

hey dirt girl, love the name by the way! thanks.. you know the thing about it is that i would be fine interacting with snakes in a controlled environment, touching them, kissing them even!! : ) but i don't want to find one in the garden! it's that OH MY i didn't see you and WOW there you are thing, the surprise thing..... but yes, everyone, you included, have given me awesome suggestions....

and i had a thought. i totally respect wildlife and nature.. but you know hurricanes and earthquakes are also part of nature and folks don't like them. i guess what i'm saying is that we can respect the wild and nature but not always feel safe, as we are not! for me, snakes fall into that category. i know that they are scared of me too but if I come across one and he's/she's as scared of me as I am of him/her, then this snake might bite me!! maybe if I was bitten once and survived i would get over it... who knows!
thanks again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 1:26AM
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Dirtgirl: There you are, I was wondering when you would weigh in on this. Excellent idea. I have heard of those things and the whole concept of overcoming a few through that kind of thing fascinates me. The idea of Red with snake magnet on his/her fridge got a chuckle out of me.

Red: Good luck to you. Sounds like the broomstick is a great idea for what you describe. No one likes to be surprised by anything. I think if you just warn the snakes to move on when you are coming out there, you should be fine. They aren't likely to come up while you are out there. I think maybe like is a strong word. I agree with you about nature. I think the idea is to respect it.

TT: Thanks for the info. Very interesting.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 7:08AM
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I really like dirtgirl's suggestion here:

"I would go one step further: try to actually go places where you can see these wonderful creatures up close and with someone who will answer your questions and even let you touch them."

I spend much of my recreational time finding snakes in the wild and taking their pictures and whenever someone tells me "How can you do that?! Snakes scare the he** out of me!" I invite them to come along to see why I enjoy it and why snakes aren't as scary as is widely believed. The ones who muster up the courage to come along have a great time.

Back to the peace of mind department: I saw 739 snakes last year and got bit by zero snakes (the actual number of encounters with snakes was probably closer to 1000 since I don't count a snake twice if I know its a snake I've already seen earlier in the year). I have seen 670 snakes so far this year and got bit by two harmless snakes that I picked up. In the years that I've been finding snakes in the wild I have never been bitten by a snake that I didn't pick up and even counting the ones I pick up I've only been bitten by four or five nonvenomous snakes in my life. That's thousands of snake encounters and never a bite or credible strike except among a tiny handful of the hundreds of snakes that I have handled. Something like 85-90% of venomous snakebite victims are white men between the ages of 18 and 45 and a good number of them involve alcohol. The reason is simple, we men (and especially drunk men) are the subset of the human population most likely to lack common sense when it comes to harassing, provoking or handling snakes.

Unless you plan to booze it up in the garden and show off your crocodile hunter impersonation skills, you'll probably never get to experience so much as even a little nip from a garter snake.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 9:19AM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

good to hear from Wayne, our resident herp authority!

I am betting my money that most reports of aggressive behavior (my favorite is that racers will literally come after you) are based on encounters where the person was trying to KILL the snake in the first place. Wayne mentions drunken males and snakes and immediately I was thinking of a similar concoction: good old boys, shotguns and low-hanging hornets nests. There is a Gary Larsonism somewhere in there, I know it.

Redd, perhaps I have sounds now like your fear isn't of snakes in general, but rather the surprise factor that can be involved if you you come across one you weren't expecting. If this is the case, just try to make lots of commotion when out and about, and try looking ahead more than a few steps at where you are walking. Think of bear bells...something that announces your approach so that neither party is caught off-guard.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 12:03PM
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reddbuffalo(Zone 7 DC)

hey i'm sorry to have exaggerated my fear to a phobia. in a way it really does feel like one but i guess it's not all snakes in all situations (ie i'd be fine in controlled snake environment) so sorry about that!! i think if we move there i may just see a snake guy somewhere to learn about snakes, it might be interesting actually..but i don't want the snakes to tel their friends that i'm a snake pal and come and visit. ha ha ha now i'm being silly.....

    Bookmark   October 28, 2005 at 2:11AM
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Wow. I just joined the Garden Web and am very impressed with the knowledge here. I too am interested in herps (may have actually run into Wayne while both looking for herps in Missouri!)

I can't possibly add more to the sound info and advice here. I do have a link to the Copperhead account on our web site (see below)

All fear is based on a lack of understanding. Reading - even seeking out snakes in the wild - will dissolve your fears eventually.

I recently read an account of a snake encounter on a hunting forum - the response from the good ol' boys was largely ignorant and fearful - the opposite of what I've read here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Copperhead snake - species account and photos

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 11:49AM
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Welcome! Looking at your webpage, I think we have met in the field looking for snakes in Missouri. I'll take a stab at it and say that you met me and my wife on May 31st, 2003 in Holt County in the NW part of the state and we had a long and enjoyable conversation. You'd seen a Fox Snake on the gravel road on the drive in. Then the next day by coincidence you noticed us hiking a levee between two ditches 100 or so miles to the east in Chariton County where you saw a bunch of nerodian water snakes in the ditch by where our car was parked. How'd I do ;-)?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 4:58PM
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ellix(augusta ga)

Reddbuffalo,I used to be so afraid of snakes I would even dream of them. This made me mad. I eventually got a baby garter snake (one that was so small it couldn't even bite me if it wanted to) and at the time (my three year old daughter) helped me greatly by handling it daily. I eventually was able to do so as well. I would feed it by hand and really got used to it. I then had a snake at school to help my kids get over their fears of snakes.
Two years ago I moved out to the country where there is a large pond 100 ft away and woods. I have seen a couple of cotton mouths but only in the big pond (I watch them very closely) and have never seen them come on land - on this side. I then added a good sized water garden next to my porch and planted tons of trees, shrubs and flowers throughout the yard. Yes there are snakes here, besides the water snakes and the black rat snake (both rather large for me) I have only seen baby snakes but all harmless. It was very good for me to see them as they did indeed run for it when they saw/heard me. This really made me feel great-yes they were more afraid of humans. Whenever I go to work in the gardens (every day) I do tend to make a bit of noise. Just when I am really feeling comfortable -sitting on my screened porch one of my cats goes berserk- he is looking at a rattle snake 3 inches off the porch. I had no idea they were here. I called someone to come catch it and someone else to take it away. This really unsettled me but the good thing was I (on the side of the porch with my cats) watched how easy it was to catch, it never tried to bite or get away it just let someone lift it up and place it in a container(not by hand though). On the other hand it didn't seem to be afraid at all and held its ground. It was there for at least 15 minutes from the time I saw it to being caught. Now I am looking very closely where I put my feet.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 9:43AM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

thamnophis makes a very important point....consider your source when initially learning about reptiles.
Too bad every person we come across is not a Wayne! I would be a wealthy person indeed if I had a dollar for every bit of rubbish I heard from some well-meaning but woefully ignorant person regarding snakes. Heck, regarding many aspects of nature for that matter. How many people will pass along the hummingbird-migrating-on-geese myth, or the hoopsnake bit, or that dragonflies can sting you with their tails? Poisonous daddy-longlegs? Any snake found in/near water MUST be a moccasin!! Kill it!! aaargh.
It's not always easy to find an authority in any field-- and I by no means count myself in that number--but old timey folklore has done more to continue the legacy of fear and misunderstanding surrounding many species than just about anything as far as I am concerned.
Choose your sources wisely. Educate yourself.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 1:53PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

Hey there dirtgirl, reading your comments just above this one by me had me going....well hey, I know that damselflies aren't biting me with their tails, but it does hurt. It's always when they're mating and the one on the bottom or the back one, puts it's tail (or whatever you call it) down and starts feeling around. It stings! What is it doing?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 6:16PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

I hope she bought you a drink first.....

that's the female on the bottom, and depending on what kind of damselfly you've got, your "sting" had either something to do with thge mating process itself or else her trying to lay eggs. I don't totally understand the whole mating sequence in dragonflies/damsels, and to make things more complicated, what the male and female do during this time depends a lot on what kind they are. Some drop their eggs directly into the water, some shove them into plant stems close to water, and so on. Maybe you had one the varieties that shove eggs into plant material and got a poke out of it...what did it feel like...I mean, in your opinion, what did it compare to? Ladybug nip, deerfly bite, etc?
I have heard people call dragonflies "Devil's darning needles" before. I know you can get a serious nip from the mouthparts, but I've never had anything happen around the posterior. Now that I think about it though, I've never handled a pair while they were mating, just watched.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 1:35PM
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terryr(z5a IL) she didn't bring me a drink, I already had one! Lately posting pictures at GW hasn't been working for me. I'll try it again

Well, it's showing on the preview so I'm guessing it'll show up. The top one, which I guess would be male, is a dark blue, the bottom one, female, is black with yellow stripes. I tried doing a search on the ones for AR, but would you believe it says there are none? Not the site I went to anyway. There's also some dusty blue ones, but I don't usually see them mating.
Hmm....what's it the stinging feel like? I'm not real sure what a deerfly is, I know the regular house fly kinds and I would say it feels almost like that. Not quite as hurtful and no blood drawn like the flies do. She puts the tail or whatever it is down onto my arm and feels around with it. It's when she's doing this that it hurts. If they just sit, female with the tail extended outward, it doesn't hurt. I hope I answered your question good enough. If not, please let me know.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 7:02PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

Only thing I can guess is that she's one of the kinds that thrust their opipositor (end of their tail) into plant tissue to lay their eggs and you are the handiest surface. You might try posting your pic over on the insects forum and see if they can make out what kind you have there.

and why don't my pics ever look this good...

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 1:23PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

I'd never remember what kind they are, I was just more wondering what she was doing. So you think she was trying to use me as the surrogate mommy? Isn't she

As for the camera pic...I have to tell you that I am not the worlds best picture taker. But we bought a new camera and that camera makes a world of difference! My husband takes worse pictures than I do, but he took that picture with the auto setting on. He just happened to get a nice clear shot and then with the software that comes with the camera, I was able to crop the photo and get it closer. Pretty cool, huh? I really like the macro on this camera too. Not an expensive camera, just an HP Photosmart R725.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 5:23PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

I just want to say to the original poster that I completely comiserate with you. I'm a "nature baby", I know quite a lot about snakes and other animals, I've always been exposed to areas with snakes in them since I was a baby (parents were nature nuts too) but for some reason, despite all my knowledge, all the statistics, all the good they do, there is just something about snakes that unnerves me to the core. Just some kind of deep seated (or is it seeded? I never know), primal gut instinct to freeze up when a snake approaches. Oh and get this... they LOVE ME. No matter where I go, snakes are attracted to me. We picnic by a pond and water snakes come straight up onto our picnic blanket, we hike in the woods, they come out to see me, we go to rattlesnake country, they come visit on my campsite and to my horror the owners of the campgrounds killed it. Just because something is scary to me I dont' believe in killing it what so ever and in this one case I was more horrified by the killing than I was of the rattler though I did climb inside the wheelbarrow I was pushing at the time. Once we were even hiking in the snow and I froze on the spot and my husband said "what?!" and I said "snake" and he says "right...." like I'm mad. But sure enough right there on top of the snow was a snake at my feet. It had evidently crawled out of it's home on a sunny day previous and that morning he was so cold he couldn't move to get back in his hidey hole. My hubby just kept touching his tail until he was able to ever so slowly side down the hole in the snow and into his den but see? Even in the winter the snakes come out to see me ;o) It's like my allergy to cats. I have a very severe reaction to cats if I touch them (or they touch me) and I touch anywhere on my face, rub my eyes (God forbid!) etc... but there can be 10 people in a room and the cats always come for me! I think these animals can sense me coming. But seriously, I think there is something different about snakes than other phobias...something deeply innate, deeply ingrained in our DNA that tells us to be wary. I don't scream or anything. I just stand real still and wait for the snake to go away but no matter how I've tried to get over my phobia, my heart nearly busts through my ribcage the minute I see one and an electrical charge feels like it's surging through my body. I don't know if my "bodily" reaction to snakes will ever change. I'm 41 y/o and despite everything I've tried, I still have the same reaction.

Fellow snake phobic,

southern Ontario, CANADA

    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 11:20AM
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I sympathized with you. Even though I am not snake-phobic myself, I have relatives who are.

In general, I don't think you have to do anything about keeping snakes away. You will rarely encounter them. When I hike through the woods, I have only seen snakes a handful of times.

Just try to make sure there aren't places for them to nest and you'll probably never seen one.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:56AM
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I honestly don't care for snakes, lizards or frogs and I've been an avid gardener for 20+ years! I wear gloves whenever I garden, as a precautionary measure because of the possibility of coming in contact with spiders, reptiles, etc. I've gotten used to finding small, harmless, gray colored snakes under pots in my greenhouse and sometimes under other things in my yard. I don't want to touch one and I let them be. Now if I happen to be startled by a frog - I jump and scream and go the other way. I know it's silly, but that's what I do! So far, I've only come across frogs now and then and possibly a lizard once in awhile, no large snakes. Enjoy the country!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 10:00PM
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If you're afraid of frogs, do not live near a body of water. During the summer, there are tons of frogs in my yard. When I mow the lawn, I have to do this slowly so the frogs will jump away. I find them in the window well in the basement and have to fish them out and toss them back outside.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 12:48AM
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I don't care for snakes either, but as a gardener I know it is just the way it is, that I will encounter them, especially when I am raking out the gardens in the spring. They are good for the garden, in that they eat a lot of pests that aren't good for the plants.

The first year I had gardens I was a nervous wreck after raking them. I found several snakes and hadn't expected that. Now I expect to find some and keep my lightweight rake with me so I can fling them across the garden. They land just fine and they are not near me!

I'm not saying it didn't bother me the first time I did this; it still bothers me, handling a snake. But expecting it helps a lot, and the more you do it, the easier it gets.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 8:22AM
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reddbuffalo, you can't be any more afraid of snakes than I am! LOL! I have been that way since I was a kid and had a couple of scarey encounters with a large grass snake and a very large pine snake.
Last fall when I was bringing in my plants for the winter, there was a pot buried in the ground that I pulled up. A large snake had wound itself up and down between the pot and the ground. When I saw it I dropped the pot, screamed, almost fell over my little granddaughter, and ran to the house! :">

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 10:05PM
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