Snakes feature prominently in many tales around the world from a variety of cultures. They are viewed in both positive and negative roles, dependent on the cultural lens they are viewed through. Within our popular culture, snakes are often mistrusted and viewed as villains, but is that reputation deserved? Today, we will explore several common beliefs, myths and conceptions about snakes, and discover which are true and which are misunderstandings of the facts.
Belief #1 – Snakes are Poisonous
This is, in fact, a misunderstanding. Poisons must be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed, while venom is injected into the body. There are venomous snakes in Missouri, which have glands that produce venom. They are of the pit viper family, which provides an easy form of identification. Pit vipers have vertical pupils, much like a cat. They also have a single row of scales on their undersides. Non-venomous snakes in Missouri, on the other hand, have round pupils and a double row of scales underneath. Missouri’s venomous snakes include the copperhead, cottonmouth, western pygmy rattlesnake, massasauga rattlesnake, and timber rattlesnake. The most common venomous snake in Missouri is the copperhead.
Belief #2 – Cottonmouths are Common at Lake of the Ozarks
The western cottonmouth is known by a variety of names, including, water moccasin, lowland moccasin, trapjaw, and gapper. While these venomous snakes do inhabit Missouri, they are normally restricted to cool, spring fed creeks and small rivers. In fact, most anglers who see a water snake near Lake of the Ozarks have actually gotten a glimpse of one of five species of non-venomous water snakes from the genus Nerodia. When threatened, they flatten their heads to imitate the diamond-like head shape of a venomous snake. To determine if a water snake is a cottonmouth, look at it’s behavior while swimming. Cottonmouths tend to swim with their heads held high, making their backs protrude from the water. When threatened, they gape their mouths wide to show the cottony white lining. This is a behavior that is particular to cottonmouths. No other snake does this.
Belief #3 – Black Snakes and King Snakes Eat Copperheads
The snake most commonly known as a black snake in Missouri is the Western Rat snake. As the name suggests, black rat snakes commonly eat a diet of rodents, not other snakes. They are able to climb trees, and will also eat birds and eggs. Speckled King snakes, on the other hand, are known for their ability to eat venomous snakes, due to an immunity to the venom of copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes. King snakes are constrictors, and will also eat lizards, small rodents, and birds. Young king snakes are often confused with copperheads, though their markings are more round, where the copperhead has hourglass shaped spots.
Belief #4 – The Only Good Snake is a Dead Snake
Snakes are, in fact, very beneficial to Missouri’s ecosystem. They eat a variety of rodents and other pests that may cause much damage and the spread of disease if left unchecked. The Missouri Wildlife Code classifies snakes as non-game animals. This means they are protected by state law, and it is illegal to kill a snake, except in circumstances where a venomous snake comes in close contact with humans, which could result in a person being bitten.
Belief #5 – Mothballs Repel Snakes
This is, in fact, a very dangerous myth. Mothballs are extremely toxic to humans and pets, causing symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and irritation to the lining of the lungs. One of the chemicals used in some mothballs, napthalene, is so toxic that if swallowed, it can cause a condition known as hemolytic anemia, which occurs when red blood cells break apart and can no longer carry oxygen. The risks of using mothballs far outweigh the advantages, particularly when it becomes evident that using mothballs doesn’t keep snakes away.
If you need snake removal on your Lake of the Ozarks property, it is important to call the professionals at Adair’s Animal Nuisance Trapping. We will safely and humanely remove the snake from your property, ensuring the security of people and pets without the use of dangerous and ineffective chemicals.