Notes from the Interns

Sierra is Scared of Snakes

Posted on: October 2, 2018

Sierra & a snake

When we mention snakes could be around during programs at the Nature Center, a lot of people seem to cringe or have a little internal freak-out. This isn’t just the case here, but everywhere I go it seems somebody is scared of these slithery creatures. But it’s not their fault for this bad rep; it’s mostly fears passed on to us from other people or the evil way we've seen snakes portrayed in the media.

However, there are people who have had direct interactions with them that didn’t go so well. Maybe they were gardening and got spooked when a garter snake slithered right over their shoe or maybe they had a snake venture into their home and getting it out was an absolute nightmare. I’d definitely include myself in this group of people; when I was a kid, I was bit in the face by a snake. (Did you cringe? I still do!)

At the time, my parents were building our first house when we noticed a woodland visitor; a 4 foot long black rat snake. Our house-building probably got in the way of one of its favorite hangout spots and he didn’t feel like finding a new one. As construction continued, I got to play on-site a lot and was able to get pretty close to the snake to check it out when it was around. Even when the dirt turned into the house’s foundation, the snake slithered back to the same spot just about every day. My dad finally decided this couldn’t continue when the dry wall started going up, so he relocated the snake deeper into the woods surrounding the new house.

After that, we didn’t see the snake anymore. We finished the house not long after and moved into the new digs. Even though construction was finished for the house, the yard was a different story. There were still trenches and ditches that need to be filled, but until they were, my sister and I used it as our own personal playground. During one of our good ol’ trench hide-and-go-seek games, I had been army crawling around some old boards and then went under a tarp. As soon as I had crawled in, I saw some quick movement and turned my head towards it where I caught a snake to the left cheek. It hung on for what felt like forever, but in reality was probably the time it took for me to untangle myself from the tarp and stand up shrieking.

I still don’t know if it was the same snake that had been hanging around our house from before, but it was the bite from a black rat snake that has made me terrified of all snakes ever since.

So now you might be asking, “Sierra, why on EARTH would you want to work at a place where you could see snakes, hold snakes, feed snakes, and sometimes remove them from your office or house after a story like that?!” That’s easy: I LOVE nature! And you know what nature includes? Snakes. So I’ve been working on not being as scared since I first started working here in June.

What’s really helped me so far is getting to know them; what they eat, what types we have around here, what their behaviors are, etc. During summer camp, we saw lots of baby snakes and they don’t prefer to bite what they can’t eat. This was a perfect time to try and get comfortable with them! Luckily, I had very supportive and knowledgeable co-workers who taught me a lot about snakes and got me to touch them at first and work my way up to holding them. Ask me to handle a baby snake out in nature? Just point me in its direction! But for the big ones, umm point me in the opposite direction!

Flash forward to starting the internship in August, and I learn we need to care for the three snakes we have on display in the visitor center.