Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Playing with Snakes at Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve

HCWP   My daughter and I spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon over at Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve, located and owned by the city of Portsmouth, VA.  It’s a 142-acre suburban wilderness park along the Hoffler Creek thats been preserved for plants and animals of all types at the heart of the Chesapeake Bay’s unique ecosystem.

This particular day they were offering a 2-hour program about snakes geared for both kids and adults. My daughter really loves animals and believe it or not, really digs snakes. If you remember in previous post, the snake display at the annual Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival is her favorite each year. Here she is a couple years ago at the event holding one of the snakes. You can read about her snake handling here, here and here.

I have taught her that not all snakes are equal, and not to ever approach a snake in the wild.

Saturdays presentation was put on by JB Rattles. JB is a local reptile expert that travels around the area sharing his experiences about some of the world’s most misunderstood animals. The presentation kept everyone on the edge of their seats while JB explained some of the facts and myths about snakes.

Here’s my daughter touching one of the many snakes JB brought out that day. This one is a black rat snake.
The black rat snake is the one you’re most likely to run into around your house. They are very common in this area and are one of the best predators for keeping mice and rats under control. Although they can grow quite large and seem intimidating, it’s a myth that they will chase you. And that goes for any snake. If ever one comes toward you, it was probably scared in that direction – just step out of the way.

Black rat snakes are resilient climbers and can climb vertically on rough surfaces as demonstrated below.
Here’s the black rat ascending a brick wall:
Same snake going up a pine tree:

We learned some other interesting things about snakes - like some of the differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes. For instance, I didn’t know that one way to tell the difference between the two types was the markings on the underside of the snakes tail. Notice in the chart below that the non-venomous snake scales will divide into 2 rows after it passes the anal plate. The other one has a single row of scales, this would mean it is a venomous snake. This rule applies to all native US snakes.

Knowing this is nice, but you won’t catch me picking up a snake to find out! However, if your lucky enough to find a snake skin still in tack you would be able to tell using this method.
There are three venomous snakes in our area of Virginia, and all three of these snakes were present.

Shown below is the most common venomous snake in our region - the Northern Copperhead.

Here JB demonstrates how peaceful these animals can be.
While snakes do not go after people, you must treat them with respect when encountering one in the wild. If cornered or surprised they will bite; however, a majority of snake bites are preventable.
JB stressed the importance of taking action if ever bitten by a poisonous snake. Get to a doctor or hospital immediately and do not attempt to administer first aid yourself. This could make the situation worse. In most cases, adults bitten by a poisonous snake in this region will be okay, but don’t chance it, get to a doctor - especially if a child is involved.

Here's another venomous snake - eastern cottonmouth. These are mostly found in or around water.

Here's a canebrake rattlesnake:
The canebrake is an endangered species. It's decline is mostly due to habitat loss. You may remember my rare encounter with one last fall.

JB brought a variety of other snakes that’s not local to the area, or country for that matter. Like this monacled cobra:
This guy was a little nervous. Notice how his head's faired up.

Check out this 13-foot burmese python!
Here's JB holding a ruthven’s kingsnake (non-venomous):
This snake closely resembles the highly venomous coral snake. To tell the difference remember the saying - "Red touching yellow, snake killing fella. Red touching black, no venom sack."

We often use the word poison and venom interchangeably, often referring to snakes as poisonous. But really thats's not correct - its venomous snakes, and there's a difference. Poison is absorbed or ingested. Venom, on the other hand, is injected into the bloodstream. Unlike poison, some say you could drink venom and it won’t hurt you. Only when it's injected is it effective. I'll just take their word for it.

I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of this fun and informative event. Thanks to Hoffler Creek WP for sponsoring this event and to Les over at A Tidewater Gardener for making me aware of it.

This post has been submitted to this weeks  Camera Critters Meme - #126. Be sure to check it out!


Les said...

I am glad you could make it and both had a good time, I was at the beach. I think I will also leave tail lifting and venom drinking to the experts.

Dawn Fine said...

Howdee Alany
Oh my..Your daughter is adorable! You are teaching her well.
Great info on the snakes.

Slow Motion...always an adventure said...

Looks like you had a great time and good lessons learned.

Misty DawnS said...

Outstanding and very informative post! Last year, I took a photo of a very large snake in our backyard pond. Some say it is just a water snake, others argue it is a venomous cottonmouth. The debate is still out, and the photos aren't very good, so we'll probably never know. LOL

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

Looks like you both had a good time :)

Eds said...

OMG!!! I just hates snakes! They are so scary and so creepy! But thanks for the info anyways now i know what's the difference..

Mine is here : Beauty of Nature

joco said...

Having attended a rattler milking session in the depths of PA, I will never look at snakes again.
Hundreds of them thrown into a pen, and chaps standing there and holding them by the head. The fact that we had them around the house in upstate NY, didn't help much. At least they had anti-venom at the hospital :-)

Maybe your gorgeous little girl will do better after being educated properly. Well done you.

Joanne Olivieri said...

First, your daughter is not only adorable but a little brave soul. I have to admit I am deathly afraid of snakes. I did however enjoy the info and even though the photos made my skin crawl, they are great shots. I also think it's great you are teaching your daughter not to be afraid by letting her participate in these events. Have a great weekend.

April Lorier said...

Your daughter is, indeed, adorable! You know, dear friend, her hair won't be looking like that for much longer. Would be a shame not to get that 'look' down on canvas.