Here in the pet friendly offices of The Curmudgeon, employees are free to bring their dogs to work. The dog must be well-behaved though, and completely non-aggressive to humans or other animals. They must be well-trained and come from the finest prep schools and know which forks go on the left. But nobody has any snakes, at least not that I know of.
And that’s good, because snakes have a talent for escaping. The snakes aren’t to blame for this of course, but rather the owners who probably shouldn’t have a snake in the first place, not if they don’t know how to care for it properly. Try explaining to Suzi in accounting that the large lump in Killer the python’s midsection is her poodle “Puffy.” This kind of fugitive snake thing is more prevalent than you might think. And now, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are nine species of giant alien snakes in North America that are becoming established in the wild and they wreak havoc on the ecosystem.
By “alien.” they don’t mean outer space but snakes that don’t have their green cards. These snakes can grow longer than 20 feet and weigh over 200 pounds, they breed as fast as humans on welfare, and have no predators. If allowed to continue, if more continue to escape, they will really devastate the system.
It’s already happening in Florida, and the Burmese Python could possibly spread throughout the entire lower third of the U.S. They have been known to kill humans, but primarily, it’s the ecosystems we have to worry about. As if we don’t have enough worries with our ecosystems.
I had a friend when I was a kid growing up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, who loved snakes. Steve Rhode (pronounced Roady) was his name. You didn’t grow up there with out knowing about snakes, and we did. We knew which were poisonousness and which weren’t. We knew how to pick them up. We knew everything about them, and it was Steve Rhode who taught us. He was fearless. Poisonousness or not, he’d grab a snake in the wink of an eye, and he’d keep some. He had a collection. He was a wild animal kind of guy. He once chased a jack rabbit. I don’t mean he chased it for 50 feet. I mean he chased it through bramble and bush, across open land, wherever the rabbit went, he followed, until finally the rabbit fell over exhausted. He kept it. He’s probably a wildlife expert somewhere now.
Steve taught his dog to talk. When I first reconnected with my best friend from those days, one of my first questions was: “Could Steve Rhode’s dog talk, or did I just imagine that?” “No, he could talk,” my friend said. I became pretty fearless too, except for Water Moccasins. They terrified me.
So unless you’re Steve Rhode, maybe you should leave the snakes to the professionals…and those religious snake handler people. They seem a little nutty to me anyway. Besides, they handle rattle snakes, indigenous here. So if you must keep snakes, keep American ones. If they escape, no big deal.
Unless they eat your poodle.
(Information for this article came from the National Park Service, Rebecca Quimby, Oct. 23, 2009)