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My View and Experience with Snakes

Snakes… They are everywhere (Just like plastic). Seriously, they are everywhere… Found on every continent and in every ocean, except Antarctica. Snakes and snake-like creatures such as dragons or reptiles appear in the myths and legends of every culture across the world. From Europe to Asia; from America to Africa. Snakes are featured in every religion of the world.

In different stories, they are represented as evil, as good, as protectors, as gods, as helpers, as obstacles, as wise and knowledgeable, or as cunning, and so on. Even humans have snake-like features such as the shape of our spine, the coiling of DNA, and the pineal gland.

Out of all animals, snakes are probably one of the most mysterious animals in the world. Out of my little reading on the web I found out the origins of snakes is still unknown, but we know that snakes were slithering around during the period of the dinosaurs.

However,  I am not writing this post to talk about the spiritual sides of snakes, I am writing because of their real threat in my personal life.

My Experience with Snakes

Our farm and our house are located at the foot of a mountain right next to the forest. Even other farmers and locals here who live in villages a bit far from us tell us how isolated and close to the wild we live.

In the first month we lived on the farm, we encountered a dead reticulated python around 2 to 3 meters in length on our land. It had already been killed by other farmers.

Ever since we came to live here we have received weekly warnings from other farmers to be careful with encountering snakes. We talked to people who also heard stories of how several farmers here already died from snakebites. We have also been warned that people have spotted venomous snakes very close to our land.

With this knowledge, I have ordered expensive snake protection boots all the way from the USA.

One day ago, our carpenter visited our farm. I was out in the nearby village and my wife was inside the house. Our carpenter was sitting just outside the house. When I came back there was a small dead snake in front of the house. It got chopped in half and its head sliced off with a machete by the carpenter.

What happened was that while the carpenter was sitting outside he heard some rustling underneath a tree that is next to our house and when he checked it out he encountered the snake.We have not yet identified the snake and the carpenter also did not know. We do not know if it was venomous or not.

I have never encountered a living snake in the wild, I have only seen them in the zoo and videos. I and my wife were quite shocked a snake can get so very close to our house, especially because just the day before the snake was underneath the tree that I was taking out weeds from.

 

Researching About Snakes

From the shock of seeing a real snake, I tried to look up some information on how to deal with living among wildlife and if there are good ways to prevent snakes from coming too close to the house.

I do not know how true it is, but I found some people claiming that growing garlic around the house might be a good way to repel snakes. Back in the day, people thought that growing garlic around the house is a good way to stop evil and black magic from coming into the house and this myth may be related to repelling snakes from the house.

I found one article that said we basically should never kill a snake when we see one, which I do not completely agree with. The article used the following arguments:

  1.  The risk of a snake biting you is extremely low if you do not harass it.
  2. The risk of being bitten by a snake when you try to kill it is very high, therefore we should not kill snakes.

I agree with the first argument. Most animals do not kill for fun, they kill for survival: which includes protection and food. I personally do not have any reason to kill random people on the street and I only protect myself when somebody attacks me. I assume most animals think in the same way.

“Most animals do not kill for fun, they kill for survival”

But the risk of being bitten by a snake when you try to kill it depends on how you kill it. The farmers in my area either use machetes or guns to kill snakes. Although I personally would use a spear or even a bow and arrow or crossbow to kill a snake from a fairly safe distance. The article I read said that most US Americans try to kill a snake with a shovel or other common gardening tools.

The article I read is written entirely from a US-American-centric perspective, but it is written as if it is universally true for the whole world.

That is why I am writing this article to give the perspective from a Southeast Asian point of view.

The article also says US Americans commonly kill snakes while they are drunk. It says that it is a bad idea to shoot snakes with a gun because it is unsafe to use a gun and the article supports this with the event of where a US police officer tried to shoot a snake but instead shot and killed a 5-year-old boy who was fishing nearby.

So, what I am concluding from the article is that it is a really bad idea to kill a snake as a US American, because you might be drunk, stupid with guns, and not using the right tools.

I am sure some people are stupid with snakes in other countries as I am sure there are a lot of careless stupid people pretty much anywhere, but this is just the feeling I get from reading the article.

Do Snakes Deserve Their Deadly Reputation?

The same article says that snakes do not deserve their deadly reputation, supporting this claim with snakebite statistics from the USA. As I live in the Philippines I decided to look up the snakebite statistics for Asia and the results were shocking… North America and Europe have the lowest number of snakebites and the lowest number of deaths from snakebites.

Asia, Africa, and South America have the highest number of snakebites and the highest number of deaths from snakebites. So, the lowest number is rich countries while the highest numbers are poor countries.

The difference of numbers in snakebites between rich and poor countries are not small either. For example, Asia has 88 times more snakebites than the USA; and 3,000 times more deaths by snakebites. In the USA you have a 0.6% chance of dying from a snakebite, while in Asia it is 6.5%.

While gathering these facts I found out that it is poor farmers from the tropics who are most at risk of dying from a snake, of which I am one. Therefore, it is easy to claim snakes are not dangerous from the viewpoint of the USA or Europe, but for the rest of the world, it is different.

So why are poor farmers from the tropics at the highest risk of dying from a snake?

For starters, poor farmers do not use big machines like tractors. Fields are plowed either with a hoe or a cow and weeds are cut with a machete. Rich farmers from the USA or Europe who sit inside the safety of their tractors (and most of the time do not even enter their fields without a tractor) do not have to worry about snakes at all.

Furthermore, European and US farmers most often do not live nearby snake areas as their way of farming has already destroyed nearly all wildlife ad wild areas around their farms. Meanwhile, poor tropical farmers often live nearby wild forests (like me) which are the natural habitats of snakes. And even farmers in the tropics who do not live near wild areas get frequent encounters with snakes as the climate of the tropics is generally better for snakes. For example, I spoke to a rice farmer who lives right next to the city and he told me he has a lot of snakes on his rice fields. He kills the snakes with a rifle.

Then of course poor countries have the bad infrastructure and bad hospitals. If I were to get bitten by a venomous snake on my farm the chance of me surviving would be zero. The closest hospital away from me is 2 or even 4 hours away. Then even if I would arrive in the hospital the chances of them having any antidote in stock is probably also zero.

So snakes do deserve their deadly reputation and they are to be respected for it. I am not calling for an all-out hunt against the snakes of the world as each animal has its role in the world and deserves to share the planet with us.

“Snakes do deserve their deadly reputation and they are to be respected for it.”

My View on Snakes

As a natural farmer, I do not want to kill any (wild) animals on the land. I do not want to, but I have to and it pains my heart to do so. I do not want to keep perpetuating the mentality of human domination over nature.

It is not my intention to eliminate all snakes and drive them to extinction, but when a snake threatens my immediate space and family I am forced to kill it. Natural farming sees the farmer as neither above nor below nature, but as just another species integrated into the ecosystem of the farm and nature.

“Natural farming sees the farmer as neither above nor below nature.”

So, seeing myself as a wild animal among other wild animals, I feel I have the right to protect myself and kill other animals. I know that ‘protecting oneself’ is often used as an excuse to dominate nature and remove entire species from the world, but I believe there is a difference between dominion over nature and protecting one’s territory, and that difference is marked in the scope and size of the territory.

I do not own a land of 100 or even 1000 hectares, nor will I ever be able to manage such a big land; I do not go out of my territory specifically to hunt and track down snakes to kill, because they are ‘evil’. Nor do the snakes in forests specifically come to me to hunt and kill me.

When I am in the jungle I know I should be on my guard, because I am in the territory of the snake and just like me the snake has the right to protect its territory. Besides that, I do know that cities keep expanding and destroying wild areas with the mentality of human supremacy over nature which of course is sad to see.

What I am trying to say is that I am neither a pacifist, but neither am I aggressive. I have no grudges against snakes, and I assume the snakes have no grudges towards me, but when we cross paths I will choose to defend my life. My life is neither worth more nor worth less than the snake, we are simply both trying to survive in this world.

Further, if I were to kill all snakes in the whole forest the ecosystem would become unbalanced which would increase the rat and mice population causing the rodents to eat my crops and food supplies. So out of my self-interest, it does not make sense to kill all the snakes. I only kill those snakes that are an immediate threat to me or my family. My family on the farm consists of my wife, my dog and my cat.

How to Correctly Treat A Snakebite

I want to be prepared in case I ever get bitten by a snake, so I went to look up first aid and medical info on snakebites. To my horror, I found out that a lot of snakebite medical information is completely outdated and inaccurate. Even the US Army Field manual and some modern medical books gave wrong and even dangerous advice on snakebites.

Therefore, in the hope it will ever help someone, I will list here the most accurate and up to date info (According to my knowledge) on snakebite first aid:

  • Reassure the victim who may be very anxious.
  • Immobilize the whole of the patient’s body by laying him/her down in a comfortable and safe position. Make sure to immobilize the bitten limb with a splint or sling.
  • Avoid any interference with the bite wound (incisions, rubbing, vigorous cleaning, massage, application of herbs or chemicals) as this may introduce infection, increase absorption of the venom, and increase local bleeding.
  • Do not make the patient tired.
  • Do not use a tourniquet.
  • Do not use an ice pack on the bite marks.
  • Do not puncture, pinch, or scrape bitten area.
  • Do not suck out the venom from the patient’s open wound.
  • Do not elevate the wound at the same level or higher than the chest/heart area.

In concluding this post, I want to say that it is up to the individual and the specific situation to kill a snake or not. Of course, it is always better to not kill wildlife and protect it, but if there is no other option, then what has to be done has to be done.

To say we should never kill a snake, or to say we should always kill a snake is disregarding realistic scenarios that always change with time, space, and the individual needs and views of people.

 

For the article that I read mentioned in this post, it can be found here:
https://livingalongsidewildlife.com/?p=3141
The source of the snakebite statistics can be found here:
https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article/figure/image?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050218.t001&size=large

Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer The dead reticulated python is not killed by me when I found it was already dead and probably killed by somebody else

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1 thought on “My View and Experience with Snakes”

  1. Frank Villablanca

    Snakes are usually fearful of humans. They only venture out from their nests to seek nourishment. Building an integrated farm around fish ponds in Leyte, I saw how venomous snakes like the Philippine Cobra and Aguason would slither away after detecting the slightest vibration created by human activity near them. Non-confrontational, these beautiful creatures stay in a place or return to one where there is an abundance of rodents that they can eat. The same is true with reticulated pythons that are normal guests in areas where there is a body of water. If one is uncomfortable about the possible risks that these reptiles pose when they try to defend their ‘personal space’, the suggested way to get rid of them is not to kill them but to take away their source of food. Keeping the rat population in check with conventional methods, for instance, would significantly reduce the presence of snakes in a farm.

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