Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

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chris_mcmartin
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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 18th, 2014, 4:49 pm

hellihooks wrote:It's nice when the 'educating' works... but some...despite rationally understanding the situation... just can NOT get past their phobia.
That's true, but it shouldn't keep us from trying. We'll never bat a thousand. ;)

Such was the case with the Lady who's Mobile home is LITERALLY perched 50 yrds up a rocky mt slope,
Reminds me of the last place I lived. South of our house a few miles was a nice-looking house on top of a rocky ridge leading up to a mesa--great view and everything. One day I noticed it was for sale. Somebody familiar with the area said, "Oh, that's the rattlesnake house...it goes up for sale all the time because nobody can stand living there on account of all the rattlesnakes. Seems it was on top of a den, and the rattlesnakes get in the house and though every buyer tries to eradicate them, more snakes keep showing up." I thought to myself, 'I wish I would've known that before buying MY house...I might've made an offer' (though my wife would probably veto it). Then again, I bought the house I had in that area in no small part because I found a bullsnake in the backyard while touring it with the realtor. :lol:

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by VanAR » February 18th, 2014, 5:18 pm

You notice how little the individual snake factors into this equation.
For my part, I agree with this argument (and all of its other components that have been described here) 100%. My simple point is that translocation itself should not be viewed as the option that is always the most humane for the snake.
While it's true I wish she was capable of learning to live with Specks... she not... and in her eyes I'm a hero... cause I provide her with just enough peace of mind to continue to live in a spot she loves so much.
There will always be some (a majority?) who won't accept it, but I think a critical point of the "education" needs to be that, no matter what the property owner or anyone else does, short of dynamiting their property, there will always be snakes present. That idea needs to be drilled into their heads from the start... and then followed up with education on how best to avoid getting bitten. Even start off with the simple fact that you won't always be able to get there right away to move the snake before it disappears on its own.

Jim, in your example I can't understand why the woman was bitten in the foot- if she new snakes were that abundant, why was she not taking the necessary precautions by simply wearing thick shoes/boots every single time she went to the rabbits? Simple safety tips like that, which seem obvious to us, are critical points that need to be emphasized whenever called to deal with a snake. If a person can be convinced to accept that encounters with snakes are inevitable, and that there are safe ways to live without risking a bite despite those inevitable encounters, then the chances of convincing them that the snakes are not a threat that needs to be dealt with are much greater.

Van

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gbin
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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by gbin » February 18th, 2014, 5:28 pm

muskiemagnet wrote:another one that makes me shake my head is when songbird lovers get all upset when cooper's hawks eat the birds at their feeders. YOU ARE THE ONE WHO BUILT THE BUFFET!!! SHUT UP AND DEAL WITH IT.
Me, I love it when a songbird at one of my feeders gets nailed by a raptor. It's just bird feeding on multiple levels, and there are a lot fewer raptors around than songbirds.
psyon wrote:What I think is funny, are people who buy a house in the country because they like to be near nature. Apparently nature to them means deer and birds, because they don't like the raccoon and possums in their garbage, or the snakes and such on their property.
And then they stop liking the deer because the animals are hard on the shrubbery, and though they continue to like the birds they get increasingly upset that the squirrels, raccoons, etc. get so much of the food they put out for them... :roll:
VanAR wrote:... I think a critical point of the "education" needs to be that, no matter what the property owner or anyone else does, short of dynamiting their property, there will always be snakes present. That idea needs to be drilled into their heads from the start...
:thumb:

Gerry

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by hellihooks » February 18th, 2014, 6:07 pm

VanAR wrote:
There will always be some (a majority?) who won't accept it, but I think a critical point of the "education" needs to be that, no matter what the property owner or anyone else does, short of dynamiting their property, there will always be snakes present. That idea needs to be drilled into their heads from the start... and then followed up with education on how best to avoid getting bitten. Even start off with the simple fact that you won't always be able to get there right away to move the snake before it disappears on its own.

Jim, in your example I can't understand why the woman was bitten in the foot- if she new snakes were that abundant, why was she not taking the necessary precautions by simply wearing thick shoes/boots every single time she went to the rabbits? Simple safety tips like that, which seem obvious to us, are critical points that need to be emphasized whenever called to deal with a snake. If a person can be convinced to accept that encounters with snakes are inevitable, and that there are safe ways to live without risking a bite despite those inevitable encounters, then the chances of convincing them that the snakes are not a threat that needs to be dealt with are much greater.

Van
Due to her snake phobia, she was usually very cautious... and her dogs were well trained to alert to snakes... but as so often is the case with Murphy's law... the one time you're lax... BOOM (believe me I KNOW :roll: ) I kept telling her it would be a matter of time... but she thought her fear would keep her safe... Hell... I even offered to trade houses with her... but she just loved her view too much...

The herp ed talks I've been doing for decades center on learning to live with herps, and quite frankly my favorite snake relocation calls are the ones where the snake is nowhere to be found, for it lends credence to my 'guess' that the snake, being more afraid of you, than you are of them, left on it's own and probably won't be seen again.
And of course, I go through all the 'make your yard safe' stuff... how beneficial snakes are, etc... generally, I would say with decent results. :thumb: The key is finding that balance between what's good for the snake, and the homeowner's peace of mind :thumb: jim

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by azatrox » February 19th, 2014, 5:34 am

A "snake call," from the perspective of the "non-naturalist" homeowner, solves an immediate problem. It gets what they perceive as a frightening or otherwise undesirable creature out of their yard.

The same snake call, from the perspective of the herper, is an opportunity for educational outreach. It offers the chance to--tactfully--explain some basic ecological principles/realities which are common knowledge in our circle of friends here, but may be shocking revelations to the general public.

The snake call plants a seed whose fruit may be several years down the road, but planting that seed is an important first step.

You notice how little the individual snake factors into this equation


:thumb:

Snake calls are much more about adventures into human cognitive thought and emotional response than they are about catching and relocating snakes...

The snakes are easy.

-Kris

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by BillMcGighan » February 19th, 2014, 7:58 am

First, I want to say thanks to those who are privy to the research and indulging us in answering my questions. I’m just stating the obvious that this subject closely touches anyone who can spell “snake”, cares about them, and isn’t a hermit.

I get the impression sometimes that some of our herpers here don’t seem have the awareness or the experience to fathom the depth of terror and hatred that some persons have for snakes. (Not any of you, of course; I mean those others!)

Because, as some have noted, these unreasonable fears are so dramatic, I’d like to invite herpers who have anecdotal, over-the-top, experiences where some human has impressed you on the depth of fear some folks can exhibit.

Just a few that comes to mind:

1. In a lecture to Cub Scouts in the ‘60s, I had a father swear (and truly believe) that he personally saw a snake eat its babies to protect them.

2. A story told to me in 1969 by Lee Schmeltz of the national zoo of a call that he made to an apartment because of a snake sighting; no snake found. Lee just got home when he was called again immediately to the same address only to find a guy being carried out by paramedics with a record turntable impaled in his chest. It seems the victim picked up the turntable, saw a snake (baby boa) under it, and reflexively jerked the turntable to his chest, impaling himself on the center record feed rod.

3. In the early ‘70s in Florida, I was called to help the family of a friend of a friend who had not used their swimming pool in 5 months because there was a snake living in the outlet jets. They would not even approach the pool. When I got there, the pool was dark green with algae. It was a harmless, juvy FL banded water snake.

4. I watched a construction worker start aggressively swinging a large piece of steel, when a co-worker was trying show him a shed skin.

5. Apparently education and intelligence is not necessarily a factor. I saw a normally composed, mathematics professor turn to jelly when his 10 year old daughter carried a hatchling Corn Snake towards him.

6. Very dramatic to me was in a combat situation. I was showing some anatomy of a dead Bamboo viper to a group of fellow marines, when this Gunnery Sergeant turned into a giggling, terrified 4 year old. This Gunnery Sergeant, on his 3rd tour in Vietnam, had 3 purple hearts, all above the collar bone, and could kill you by just looking at you!


Maybe you can add some anecdotes to show how deep this goes with some folks?

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by cbernz » February 19th, 2014, 8:35 am

Yeah, irrational fear is called irrational for a reason. You can't just explain it away. I knew a girl in college who got physically ill even seeing a snake on TV. People have irrational fears of bridges, clowns, food, and all sorts of stuff. It can take years of therapy to overcome such phobias.

However, the fear of a rattlesnake wandering into your kids' sandbox and biting an unwary or curious toddler is not at all irrational. There are no hot snakes where I live, so I don't have to deal with this problem, but let's say I lived on a small property in a neighborhood that had rattlesnakes nearby, and that once every couple years or so a rattler wandered in. I'm pretty sure I would take it far away and wish it good luck, at least until my kids were old enough to avoid snake bites on their own. On the other hand, if I lived on a sprawling ranch in the middle of rattler country, I'd just have to live with keeping my kids on a tight leash, and sweeping their play areas before I let them outside.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 19th, 2014, 8:37 am

1. I responded to a snake call in San Antonio and as I'm talking to the family, trying to get directions to their house, I can hardly understand them because they're screaming so much. When I get there, the mother and daughter are crouched on top of a table and screaming and pointing behind a stereo speaker, saying "It's over there!" I moved the speaker to find a approximately 6-inch rough earth snake, which I picked up--at which point, the two ladies went nuts. When the police showed up, guns drawn (we got our calls referred from the police, who usually received the notification via 911), I told them the situation was under control.

2. I had another family who decided to move out of their home, into a motel, for a few days "just to be on the safe side" when I could NOT find the snake they had seen.

3. I responded to a call in the parking lot of a shopping mall about a potential coral snake the family allegedly saw crawl into the vehicle the previous night. I couldn't find the snake after searching as extensively as practical. Noting it was San Antonio in August, in the middle of the day, I told the family to go have some ice cream in the food court and come back out in a couple of hours; the rationale being if the snake WAS still in the car, it would no longer be a problem (from a biting perspective, but perhaps a smell perspective).


In all cases, it would be easy, even tempting, to laugh at them and say "don't be silly." But that doesn't help if your goal is to educate. 8-)

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by gbin » February 19th, 2014, 2:23 pm

BillMcGighan wrote:... I’d like to invite herpers who have anecdotal, over-the-top, experiences where some human has impressed you on the depth of fear some folks can exhibit.
Thanks for taking the thread on a fun and unusual turn, Bill. :thumb:

I've never been a snake rescuer per se, but within the hobby and elsewhere I've dealt with plenty of fearfulness, including extreme fearfulness, as well as at least some of the full-blown hysteria that lots of folks appear to mistake extreme fearfulness to be. Heck, back in my youth when I was working as an orderly in one or another total care nursing home I was even obliged to deal with downright dementia. You think a homeowner frightened out of his/her wits by a snake is hard to deal with? Try being called in to "settle down" an old but still fairly strong fellow who because he's lost in the maze of Alzheimer's has suddenly come to believe that his nurse is trying to poison rather than merely medicate him, and so believes himself to be literally fighting for his life.

My favorite herp-induced panics were those I fairly frequently saw in teachers and parents who would bring children to a zoo where I was volunteering many years ago. In the middle of our Zoolab (our touch-and-see room) we had a small, bare tree in which perched a lovely, very mellow boa. Once set on his perch in the morning he was content to remain there all day, day after day, scarcely moving. Lots of people didn't see him at all when they came in, and lots more saw him and mistook him for an artificial display (and some of these gave him a wide berth, regardless). Then he'd finally decide to reposition himself, or even just to give a tongue flick or two, prompting screaming, running, hyperventilating and sometimes even fainting by the most ophidiophobic. I know it's not kind, but I often found these overblown responses kind of funny. And I know it's not the same as homeowners worried about themselves or their little darlings getting snake bitten in their own backyard - which I will repeat I have also seen plenty of, be me a rescuer or no - but as I said these were my favorite episodes.

Here's the thing. In a true hysteria you can't get through to someone by any means, not for at least a little while; pretty much all you can do is try to sooth them and keep them from hurting themselves until some rationality returns. In anything less than that situation, though, some things can and will get through to people. In particular, if you tell them something that actually feeds their fear, it will get through to them very well, indeed. As I said above, I am not advocating that rescuers waste their breath trying to expound upon the usefulness of rattlesnakes and the importance of their ecological role in the world to people in a panic. Nothing at all like that. I'm saying that they should be told the simple truth, that the snake they see can be taken away, but there are virtually always more unseen than seen and no one can make their yard snake-free for them. They need to learn to cope with this or they need to move. This is from their perspective unhappy news, and it feeds their fear, and except for those rare few who are genuinely hysterical they will hear it. And I'm saying this is what should be done because it's the right (if unpleasant) thing to do, for them, their kids and pets, and their local wildlife.
In another ongoing thread, chris_mcmartin wrote:A cursory review of this response reveals several logical fallacies (in order): false dilemma, appeal to consequences/slippery slope, ad hominem, appeal to fear, appeal to nature, and hasty generalization. I think there are actually a few others tucked in there!

:?
Chris, I readily enough spot all of these and other bogus arguments when they're made, but I don't generally know the formal terms for them. You seem up on this stuff, so maybe you can tell me what the formal term is for someone, instead of making a real argument, resorting to claiming that his/her opponents must simply be too naive/inexperienced/etc. or they'd be persuaded by some argument previously offered - despite his/her knowing absolutely nothing about said opponents' experiences, of course. I've always just thought of it as arrogant, condescending bull$hit, which it clearly is, but surely there must be a more polite term by which it's known? Thanks in advance if you can come up with it for me.

(And in case you're at all confused on this point because I'm not calling anyone out by name, Chris, I definitely don't recall ever seeing you behave this way and I find it hard to imagine that you ever would. :beer: I really just thought you might know an established name for it.)

Gerry

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 19th, 2014, 7:05 pm

gbin wrote:Chris, I readily enough spot all of these and other bogus arguments when they're made, but I don't generally know the formal terms for them. You seem up on this stuff, so maybe you can tell me what the formal term is for someone, instead of making a real argument, resorting to claiming that his/her opponents must simply be too naive/inexperienced/etc. or they'd be persuaded by some argument previously offered - despite his/her knowing absolutely nothing about said opponents' experiences, of course. I've always just thought of it as arrogant, condescending bull$hit, which it clearly is, but surely there must be a more polite term by which it's known? Thanks in advance if you can come up with it for me.
That basic scenario sounds most like an "appeal to authority," but there are multiple--multiple--variants of the basic logical fallacies, so there may be a more precise term to use. It's not like I have the types and definitions memorized; it's more of a case of "I know it when I see it," and then I have to look it up so it can be communicated effectively (either in one of my books or online--plenty of helpful resources available for the curious).
(And in case you're at all confused on this point because I'm not calling anyone out by name, Chris, I definitely don't recall ever seeing you behave this way and I find it hard to imagine that you ever would.
I think I USED to...but in both my profession and avocational endeavors, any time my "head gets too big" and I get a little cocky, I get taken down numerous pegs (usually by screwing up in a very big and public way), so I've slowly, almost reluctantly at times, learned to work diligently at humility. :thumb:

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by gbin » February 19th, 2014, 7:22 pm

chris_mcmartin wrote:... It's not like I have the types and definitions memorized; it's more of a case of "I know it when I see it," and then I have to look it up so it can be communicated effectively (either in one of my books or online--plenty of helpful resources available for the curious).
Ah, so you and I are really more or less alike - except that I'm too lazy to look such stuff up. ;) Really I guess it's more a matter of impatience than laziness; I don't like to spend any more of my time than necessary dealing with bull$hit debate tactics, preferring to just identify them as such and then move on. But that kind of terminology isn't necessarily acceptable in all company.

Are we ready to move on now, folks, or do a few more people want to gnaw on this tired, old "my opponents must be too inexperienced to agree with me" chestnut, first?...

Gerry

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Tamara D. McConnell » February 20th, 2014, 4:30 am

Regarding folks' irrational fears about snakes...
I stopped at a rural site down a red dirt road to flip debris. Suddenly, 7 (I kid you not) pickup trucks materialized. Out of the trucks poured heavily armed dudes. They had long guns, short guns, dogs, the whole nine yards. At first I wondered if Mobile County was at war. My second thought was, "I bet I'm not gonna get to herp here today."
I put my hands up and said, "I'm a teacher. I'm just looking for snakes. What's going on?"
The leader told me, "We're hunting a crackhead."
There had been a lot of breakins in the area, so I guess the vigilante posse had formed in response to that.
I established that I was not the crackhead they were looking for, and they told me to be on my way. I complied, since my personal policy is to never argue with heavily armed people. A few hundred yards down the road, I saw a lovely gray ratsnake crossing the road in front of my car. "Hey," I thought. "This is way cool. The fellas should see this."
I collected the snake and turned around and went back to show them.
They lost their minds. They blanched, jumped back, expressed in colorful and no uncertain terms their assessment of my mental status. Then they looked to their alpha for security. I offered to let him touch the snake (because, frankly, sometimes I just enjoy messing with people, and I knew he couldn't say no without losing face in front of his boys). He so clearly did not want to go anywhere near the snake, but he had to. So he mince-stepped oh-so-timidly up to it, lightning-fast touched it with one finger, then hastily retreated. The posse cheered and slapped him on the back like he just done something remarkable.
Then I left for good, releasing the snake on my way out.
Such is life in LA (lower Alabama).

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by gbin » February 20th, 2014, 5:10 am

Great story, Tamara! :thumb:

Gerry

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Jimi » February 20th, 2014, 11:22 am

Yes Tamara, that is a great story. That's the kind of thing that made me say this earlier, which is so obviously true it could be called a tautology (since there's some side discussion of logic, not to say rhetoric):
People are funny about snakes, especially venomous ones.
But not always, and I have a counter-point story to Tamara's. I have probably told it here before, because it really sticks with me. I'll share it again, because it provides a lesson in making assumptions about people, their character and their intentions.

I - along with 2 long-time, but now departed FHF members - was cruising a loop a little ways south of Weatherford Texas about 15 years ago - an interesting ecotonal region where plains and eastern-deciduous faunas meet. I was there specifically because I wanted to harvest a pair of the lovely broad-banded copperheads known from that locality. I think at the point this story begins that night, I'd made a loop or two and already had my female bagged, and was still looking for my male.

Suddenly, a (just one) pickup truck materialized. Since it was obvious to me that I was the focus of their attention, I pulled over and said "Hi fellas! What can I do for you?"

This truck too was full of suspicious locals. (And surely there were firearms, it would be much more remarkable if there weren't. Since I don't remember anything about firearms, I assume they were there, but they're forgettable since they weren't pointed at me.) I do recall there was a cooler full of beer, and also chairs or a couch, in the pickup's bed. God I love Texas.

Similar to the crackhead explanation Tamara got, this group's leader told me "we've had a lot of break-ins lately, we're checking you out because we thought you might be the bad guy". I assured the group "I ain't the one!" and explained what I really was. I showed them my sweet plump glorious orange, musky little laticinctus in a bag, by way of proof.

To my amazement and eternal happiness, they all had a look in the sack and congratulated me on "hey, a pretty good one". (Holy Smokes, right?!?!) I was then invited to come back and flip debris on their residential properties, which they assured me "almost certainly right now" had some more examples of what I was after (and which they had no interest in killing, driving away, etc - but which they were willing to share with me, within reasonable limits). I didn't take them up on the morning flip for their yard coppers, but I did take them up on their offer to do a lap of their neighborhood loop road. I jumped in back and had a beer with them, and went for a spin and a snake-chat. Great folks, beautiful country.

(I did get my male later that night, unfortunately not with those local boys, it was after we parted ways. He was nowhere near as good as that female. She was smokin'.)

Anyway, I thought such a counterpoint would be a nice way to close my commentary on snake relocation, irrational fears, etc.

cheers,
Jimi

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by hellihooks » February 20th, 2014, 12:24 pm

I've told this story before, but I think it bears repeating. Worse than even irrational fear, is the ingrained notion that 'rattlesnakes need to be hunted down, and shot'
So one night J. Teel and I ran into each other road cruising a certain San Gabe rd (both looking for rosys) and a bit later I see Jeff pulled over with another car... Jeff and the other carload of teenagers had seen and pulled over for a sub-adult helleri at the same time...the difference being the teenagers were looking for rattlesnakes to kill, by shotgun... The teens, while scared [email protected]!^less of rattlesnakes, thought it brave and heroic to rid the world of this 'menace'... :roll:
In the course of Jeff and I trying to educate these kids... I noticed that the helli had suffered a broken back midway down his length, and was just dragging the back half of his body along. He was a bit thin, but not terribly so... so was in fact surviving, as this was obviously not a recent injury.
I picked the snake up by the paralyzed rear half... and proceeded to 'shame' the teenagers by saying things like "Is THIS what you big brave guys need a gun to Kill?? and so on and so forth...
The snake wasn't even aware it was being held and was only interested in getting off the road, which I helped it do... and we all watched it crawl off into the brush.
I, of course, had to backtrack a bit by letting these kids know, in no uncertain terms, that they could NOT do what I had just done, without getting bit, and while crotes needed to be respected... they needn't be feared as public menaces, as these kids had been brought up to believe.
It was a spur of the moment thing, and admittedly not the greatest idea I ever had... but it worked! The teens were embarrassed and shamed that they were planning on killing something that posed no danger to them, and in fact just wanted to be left alone. They all swore never to kill rattlesnakes or any other snakes, for 'sport' again... :thumb:

'Phobias' resulting from some scarcely remembered traumatic event are one thing...'generational ignorance' is quite another... but in both cases, education is the cure. :thumb: jim

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Tamara D. McConnell » February 21st, 2014, 9:04 pm

People are funny about snakes, especially venomous ones.


But not always, and I have a counter-point story to Tamara's. I have probably told it here before, because it really sticks with me. I'll share it again, because it provides a lesson in making assumptions about people, their character and their intentions.

I - along with 2 long-time, but now departed FHF members - was cruising a loop a little ways south of Weatherford Texas about 15 years ago - an interesting ecotonal region where plains and eastern-deciduous faunas meet. I was there specifically because I wanted to harvest a pair of the lovely broad-banded copperheads known from that locality. I think at the point this story begins that night, I'd made a loop or two and already had my female bagged, and was still looking for my male.

Suddenly, a (just one) pickup truck materialized. Since it was obvious to me that I was the focus of their attention, I pulled over and said "Hi fellas! What can I do for you?"

This truck too was full of suspicious locals. (And surely there were firearms, it would be much more remarkable if there weren't. Since I don't remember anything about firearms, I assume they were there, but they're forgettable since they weren't pointed at me.) I do recall there was a cooler full of beer, and also chairs or a couch, in the pickup's bed. God I love Texas.

Similar to the crackhead explanation Tamara got, this group's leader told me "we've had a lot of break-ins lately, we're checking you out because we thought you might be the bad guy". I assured the group "I ain't the one!" and explained what I really was. I showed them my sweet plump glorious orange, musky little laticinctus in a bag, by way of proof.

To my amazement and eternal happiness, they all had a look in the sack and congratulated me on "hey, a pretty good one". (Holy Smokes, right?!?!) I was then invited to come back and flip debris on their residential properties, which they assured me "almost certainly right now" had some more examples of what I was after (and which they had no interest in killing, driving away, etc - but which they were willing to share with me, within reasonable limits). I didn't take them up on the morning flip for their yard coppers, but I did take them up on their offer to do a lap of their neighborhood loop road. I jumped in back and had a beer with them, and went for a spin and a snake-chat. Great folks, beautiful country.
Jimi, this warms my heart. Always very uplifting to unexpectedly encounter pro-snake folks. Thanks for a big smile.

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Re: study showing snake relocation ... hhhmmm

Post by regalringneck » March 19th, 2014, 11:29 am

... just when some thought another "fact" regarding serpents could be presumed ; http://news.yahoo.com/pythons-homing-tr ... 28172.html


Paris (AFP) - The Burmese python has a built-in compass that allows it to slither home in a near-straight line even if released dozens of kilometres away, researchers said Wednesday.

Capable of growing over five metres (16 feet) long, pythons are among the world's largest snakes. Although native to South and Southeast Asia, the snakes have taken up residence in South Florida's Everglades National Park, possibly after being released as unwanted pets.

They have adapted so well to their new habitat that they now pose a serious threat to several species which they hunt as prey.

Scientists captured six of the pythons in the Everglades, placed them in sealed, plastic containers, and drove them to locations between 21 and 36 kilometres (13-22 miles) away.

They implanted radio trackers in the animals and followed their movements with GPS readings from a small fixed-wing plane -- measuring their direction and speed.

All the snakes immediately oriented themselves towards the place where they were captured, with five of the six returning to within five kilometres (three miles) of that spot.

The snakes travelled between 94 and 296 days, displaying "high motivation to reach home locations", according to the study, published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » March 19th, 2014, 2:44 pm

You left out a couple important things regalringneck.

Quote from the article:
"No other snake species has yet been shown to possess a similar homing ability."

Link to the original research paper, which seems to be open access:

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/ ... hort?rss=1

It will be interesting to see if other snakes show this homing ability. Rattlesnakes do not have this ability.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by VanAR » March 19th, 2014, 4:24 pm

Hmm, interesting article, Bryan, but I'm skeptical about its conclusions for 2 reasons. First, burmese pythons are big, and I think it might be premature to assume that a displacement of 20-30 km is necessarily outside of their home range, or at least outside of the area that they might have traveled during their lives. This is one problem that most translocation studies fail to control for/address- are the translocations actually outside of the animal's range? In most cases, they probably are, but nobody radiotracks snakes for 2-3 years prior to translocation to be sure.

Second, I think rattlesnakes (and potentially other species) do have excellent homing abilities, at least within their home ranges. Prairie rattlesnakes in Canada (and potentially elsewhere) have been documented to travel over 10 km from their dens during the active season. Garter snakes in Canada have also been documented to travel 20-30 km from their densite.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » March 20th, 2014, 8:48 am

Thanks for the comments Van. I wonder if tropical snakes have more plastic home ranges than temporal snakes? If food and shelter are available everywhere, returning to familiar surroundings could be less important, particularly for a top predator.

I was thinking of the couple studies that relocated the rattlesnakes outside their home ranges. The snakes pretty much wandered aimlessly and I think the authors even concluded that they did not have homing ability. What about some experiments within an individual's home range? It would be interesting to find out what cues the snakes use to orient themselves.

I read about the snakes in Canada that traveled in straight lines miles from their dens. If I remember correctly they were feeding on deer mice which I always thought of as low value food.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by regalringneck » March 20th, 2014, 9:16 am

Those are some huge home ranges you quote there Van, any chance you'd have the cites handy? I'd agree that describing movements w/in the home range is hardly "homing behavior". Even w/o homing behavior though, (although sea turtle studies indicate this is definitely possible in Reptilia)
i'm still a skeptic of the growing presumption that serpent relocation is a bad idea for the individuals involved (a different if related topic).
A small sample example, i gave a buddy 2 very distinctive 50/50 cali kings which he maintained for several years at his rural home [w/ other native getulus present (as well as coyotes & hawks)]. Eventually he tired & released the 2 50-50's in his backyard; (effectively relocated them) He has subsequently observed them on several occasions over several years around his premises (along w/ other normal thin banded kingsnakes) robbing nests, crawling at night, etc.
Bryan, what leads you to think deer mice (or any mammal) would be low value food to a serpent? Thnx for providing the link. rxr

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » March 20th, 2014, 10:11 am

Here is the citation for the Duvall paper on prairie rattlesnakes. Its the same one (?) Van cited on the long distance movements and the one I mention on snakes feeding on deer mice. Its published in a National Geographic "journal" and I don't have an electronic copy.

My thoughts on deer mice as low value food are based on observations in Nevada. Deer mice are extremely abundance but the rattlesnakes seem to prefer other prey like wood rats, chipmunks and voles. Not to say deer mice aren't important food to some size classes but some snakes must be actively avoiding deer mice. I think they are a good food source, just not a preferred food in my area. Snakes are adaptable enough to feed on whatever suitable prey is available.
regalringneck wrote:i'm still a skeptic of the growing presumption that serpent relocation is a bad idea for the individuals involved
Its good to be skeptical. Just please don't ignore or disqualify the published studies supporting that "growing presumption".


Duvall, D. M., M. B. King, and K. J. Gutzwiler. 1985. Behavioral ecology and ethology of the prairie rattlesnake. Natl. Geogr. Res. 1:80-111.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by regalringneck » March 20th, 2014, 11:11 am

thnx, ill look it up if a cybergnome doesnt post a link : } agreed w/ your sage advice re: existing work, but after 30 yrs of on & off xtranslocation & other wildlf work, i can't ignore my own experiences & biases too ...
interesting your notes on deer mice avoidance, as ive fd them the go-2 food for stubborn feeders; boas & crotes ...
I had an unusual insight whereby a buddy flipped a long stabilized pallet w/ a big woodrat midden under it w/ 2 adult red rattlers hunting adjacent ... but heres the thing, the adult rat came up and out right next to a big redhead & was not bit ... we both had a funny feeling that those crotes were only harvesting surplus young! We carefully set back the pallet, apologized & left .. given the millions of years of co-evol. of these 2 sps ... maybe we're not the only wildlf mngrs out there : }

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by VanAR » March 20th, 2014, 1:03 pm

For gartersnakes (and many other species):

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1 ... 3544657231

For prairie rattlesnakes:
http://dspace.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/47445

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by regalringneck » March 20th, 2014, 3:16 pm

... Thnx Van, that was a nice piece of work on the prairies, 3.5 to 5.5 km was the mean for a sample size of 10-24 females for 125 data days ... i need to read it closer, i havent seen that 12.5 km movement discussed yet, but saw it in the table ... dang thats a long way for a crote ... heres the direct link: http://dspace.ucalgary.ca/bitstream/188 ... n_2009.pdf
The other cite seemed to be more along the lines of the literature in this regard is mixed, and caveats serpents are not an easyily studied group.
Did your work Van w/ atrox have these kinds of wanderings? I've generally thought of them as effective ambush predators that move as little as possible, ive seen some that appear to be the same snake in the same rockpile, mineshaft, or deadfall for weeks at a time, & year after year.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by VanAR » March 20th, 2014, 3:48 pm

regalringneck wrote:The other cite seemed to be more along the lines of the literature in this regard is mixed, and caveats serpents are not an easyily studied group.
Did your work Van w/ atrox have these kinds of wanderings? I've generally thought of them as effective ambush predators that move as little as possible, ive seen some that appear to be the same snake in the same rockpile, mineshaft, or deadfall for weeks at a time, & year after year.
Certainly there is room for tremendous variation among individuals even within a single densite.

To be clear, my work on horridus was as a field assistant on a project focused primarily on thermal biology, and movement data were mostly anecdotal, but what I saw supports your point. The snakes we tracked had very set home range circuits and seemed to visit the exact same locations/structures repeatedly at the same times every year, at least until the mating season. For example, I've posted a photo of one female timber on a branch on a tree- that snake went to that exact branch on that exact tree every mid-June for three years.

The males I followed were also capable of pretty large movements during the mating season. I tracked snakes every 2-3 days at that time, and it was not uncommon for a single male to move more than 1 km (in straightline distance) between two tracking events. They usually wouldn't make such a movement repeatedly, but would move to a location and hang out there for a week or two, and then move again. During the mating season, it also wasn't uncommon to locate a snake in a place where it hadn't been observed before. Of course, there's no way to know if the snake had never before been in that location, but it certainly hadn't been radiotracked there in the few years prior.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by jonathan » March 20th, 2015, 2:30 am

Don Becker wrote:
captainjack0000 wrote:If there is a human-animal conflict, why can't we just relocate the human? :P
I have told people before, I believe that a person is more important than an animal, but not that people are more important than animals. If I see a bear attacking a person, I will kill the bear to safe the person. If someone wants to bulldoze through the woods where the bear lives though to build a new road, or new houses, well, I have a problem with that.
Not to mention the fact that the continued existence of people is quite dependent on the continued existence of animals and the rest of nature.

Even if you didn't give a crap about animals at all and based your decisions totally on the future welfare of humanity, it would be in humanity's best interests to be far, far more concerned with the preservation of the natural world than we are right now.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by jonathan » March 20th, 2015, 2:43 am

chris_mcmartin wrote:1. I responded to a snake call in San Antonio and as I'm talking to the family, trying to get directions to their house, I can hardly understand them because they're screaming so much. When I get there, the mother and daughter are crouched on top of a table and screaming and pointing behind a stereo speaker, saying "It's over there!" I moved the speaker to find a approximately 6-inch rough earth snake, which I picked up--at which point, the two ladies went nuts. When the police showed up, guns drawn (we got our calls referred from the police, who usually received the notification via 911), I told them the situation was under control.
Did you videotape it? I swear I've seen a video that fits almost that exact description before.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by jonathan » March 20th, 2015, 2:49 am

VanAR wrote:Hmm, interesting article, Bryan, but I'm skeptical about its conclusions for 2 reasons. First, burmese pythons are big, and I think it might be premature to assume that a displacement of 20-30 km is necessarily outside of their home range, or at least outside of the area that they might have traveled during their lives. This is one problem that most translocation studies fail to control for/address- are the translocations actually outside of the animal's range? In most cases, they probably are, but nobody radiotracks snakes for 2-3 years prior to translocation to be sure.
Even if it was within their home range, what methodology would they have been using to home in on their capture site? How would the snake distinguish between the incredibly large number of different microhabitats within a 100+ square kilometer area, and then memorize their locations relative to each other?

There may be an answer to this, but I'm having trouble visualizing the mechanism. Actually, even the magnetic homing mechanism is difficult to visualize.


p.s. - I worked with NASA to study magnetic tracking behavior in magnetotactic bacteria, but that was a little simpler. Sometimes they went up the field lines, sometimes they went down. Those were the only two choices. Time/Season/Dissolved Oxygen % factors made them change direction. Their home ranges were not large. Relocated bacteria did not attempt to return to their home range.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by gbin » March 20th, 2015, 7:29 am

Bryan Hamilton wrote:Its good to be skeptical. Just please don't ignore or disqualify the published studies...
One of my favorite things that's been posted here at FHF in some time. :thumb:

Gerry

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Kelly Mc » March 25th, 2015, 8:53 pm

If the merits of successful relocation are dubious, and what is extrapolated is an outreach of information to snake-disliking people, the act itself and everything involved in it - that involves the animal - uh the individual snake, should be done with good protocol, focused on the animal, not the lengthy photo opportunity it may present to self appointed Relocators.

that old saying comes to mind: With friends like that, who needs enemies?

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » March 26th, 2015, 8:42 pm

I'm not sure what you're saying Kelly. Is it that the photography sessions run too long, which could have negative effects on the snake?

I agree that the snakes should be treated with respect but doesn't the photography convey that respect to the resident that wants the snake relocated ("the snake disliking people")?

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Kelly Mc » March 26th, 2015, 9:13 pm

Recently we got a call about a sighting of an African Grey Parrot a few blocks down the avenues, perched on a telephone line. The bird was an adult but it was young, it hunkered down and made stereotypical "baby to parent" movements, like when they are being fed. Handfed parrots will sometimes behave regressively this way when apprehensive or wanting attention. anyway it was doing that which meant getting the bird down was going to be easier than if it was an un friendly, frightened bird, so long story short I went to the apt upstairs closest to where he was, they let me in the kitchen and I climbed out the window above the sink. Through all this the bird was talking saying Hi Robbie! Hi Robbie! Lifting his paw and corkscrewing his head around. He sidestepped toward me then changed his mind. We did this for more than a half an hour. The neighbor was able to reach the owner, who was a dog walker, who came, took my place, and the bird foot over foot went right to him. I was so happy. On the way back to the shop I realized that though I had my phone, I hadn't took any pictures to share the event with my GF because I was concentrating on the bird.

All this is to say that focusing on the animal you are working with is more important than getting pictures, there is a sensationalistic edge to many relocation presentations that is palpable and differs from serious documentation when the rescue event is rife with gratuitous manipulation, storing animal for more photo taking later, etc.

But its a called a rescue so that is supposed to make it ok.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by chris_mcmartin » March 27th, 2015, 3:42 am

jonathan wrote:
chris_mcmartin wrote:1. I responded to a snake call in San Antonio and as I'm talking to the family, trying to get directions to their house, I can hardly understand them because they're screaming so much. When I get there, the mother and daughter are crouched on top of a table and screaming and pointing behind a stereo speaker, saying "It's over there!" I moved the speaker to find a approximately 6-inch rough earth snake, which I picked up--at which point, the two ladies went nuts. When the police showed up, guns drawn (we got our calls referred from the police, who usually received the notification via 911), I told them the situation was under control.
Did you videotape it? I swear I've seen a video that fits almost that exact description before.
No, but I'm sure a similar scenario has played out numerous times.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Kelly Mc » March 27th, 2015, 4:31 am

People screaming and wanting to kill snakes is a plain ignorance. It is creepier when people who claim to know and admire snakes showcase images of animals they have exhausted or are clutching by the throat in an overcompensating death grip for some weird ego trip.

Its oxymoronic to create a pageantry of morbidly stressed snakes who have been bagged up and battered by tongs and desperate over handling at the impetus of social media.

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