Thursday, July 3, 2014

A take on local snakes, Part 2

WOW - did you see that KTRK story on the coral snake that was found inside a League City residence?
This image above looks like one of those crazy annoying advertisements you'd see on the right hand side of your computer screen as you're trying to read the REAL news - but it's not.  This IS the real news.  Judging from CAD records, the home in question was on the west side of League City in the general vicinity of Clear Springs High School.

The coral snake identification mantra (used to distinguish them from less harmful snakes that mimic their protective coloration):
Red touches yellow, kill a fellow.
Red touches black, friend of Jack (or "fellow be back"). 

Screengrab courtesy of KTRK.  
Just in case you're freaking out right about now, rest assured that this kind of event is *extremely* rare.  Profoundly rare.  It never would have occurred to me as a possibility, and I do know a little bit about local snakes.  The chances of this happening in League City are probably less than the odds of winning the lottery and then forgetting to claim the prize money.  Coral snakes are extremely evasive, extremely reclusive - they avoid humans like the plague.  In all of my years of camping and hiking on the upper Texas coast, I've only ever come face to face with one of them - and even to see one deep in the woods (Lake Houston Wilderness Park, one mile from the park headquarters) was so rare that I had to text just about every friend I have in North America to share the unprecedented news.  People around here usually go their whole lives without a coral snake encounter, even if they are hunting and fishing enthusiasts who spend a great deal of time outdoors.  Coral snakes are deadly but their bites happen so infrequently (i.e., never) that no antivenin has been manufactured in more than a decade.  To discover a coral snake in a suburban home??  That is unthinkable.
In contrast, finding the likes of this guy around here is fairly routine.  This is a non-poisonous water snake we rescued one day a few years ago in Heritage Park down by Butler Longhorn Museum.  He was tangled in some fishing line and the young child next to me helped to un-do the damage.  I'm wearing gloves in this pic not because the snake is harmful but because he was listless (being throttled with fishing line will do that) and so I was initially cautious about the potential for zoonotic diseases.  
I wrote "A take on local snakes" more than three years ago and since that time, I've been humbled by the sheer number of people who are possessed by an abject fear of snakes.  I can see those fears laid bare in their search strings:  They assess the snake risk before deciding to move to Texas (career opportunities be damned).  They assess the snake risk before even stepping one toe onto the beach at Galveston.  They assess the snake risk before visiting any local park, no matter how much concrete it contains, no matter how developed with urban or suburban improvements it may be.  I never realized how extensive these concerns really are.  If you are one of those people, you can rest assured of one thing - your odds of finding a coral snake in your own suburban home are basically nil.
This is the closest most people are ever going to get to that type of experience.  

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