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Learn to identify venomous snakes, respect their space

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• These magnificent reptiles roam the woods and water of Alabama searching for food and shelter free of persecution until either we enter their habitat or their search unknowingly brings them into “our space.”

As for the infamous rattlesnakes, Alabama hosts three different species: the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the timber rattlesnake (also called the canebrake rattlesnake), and the pygmy rattlesnake.

The largest of them all, the eastern diamondback, can reach up to seven feet long with a short, stout tail featuring a characteristic rattle at the end. This rattle is a series of hollow, interlocking sections that click against each other when in vibration mode. Yellow diamond shapes and black and brown centers color the snake that also possesses a large head. This snake doesn’t strike without reason. It will remain stationary until it senses a threat or is physically touched. Its defense stance is a coiled position with its head in the center and its rattle upright and vibrating. When it chooses to strike, it can reach up to two-thirds the length of its body.

The timber rattlesnake also showcases a distinct broad head and narrow neck. Its color may be black to yellow to pink to gray with dark bent crossbands along its body. Its short, thick, velvety tail is black with a tan rattle.

The pygmy rattlesnake looks like a miniature version of the other rattlers. Usually less than two feet long, this rattlesnake also has a head that is broader than its body (which can vary in color from gray to tan to lavender to orange to red), and it possesses a tiny rattle that is seldom heard.

Take a little time to identify these six venomous serpents, and share your knowledge with friends and family. The next time you see a snake crossing the road, please don’t go out of your way to run it over. And if you have one hanging around your house, be thankful that it’s consuming any mammals that might otherwise enter your home or mow down your garden.

You just might find that searching for snakes is less fearful and more fun than you imagined.

I am still working on Mama. Thankfully, she isn’t as quick to grab a hoe and chop a snake’s head off as she used to be. Now she just calls for Daddy to “come and get it.” I call that progress.

 

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