Top 10 Misconceptions About Snakes

Many beliefs and ideas people generally have about these reptiles are factually incorrect.

Unlike cute furry animals, snakes often evoke feelings of fear and ᴅɪsɢᴜsᴛ with its slithery appearance and flickering forked-tongue.

Upon encountering this limbless reptile, most people attempt to ᴋɪʟʟ it because of the popular belief that all snakes are ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴏᴜs to humans. In actual fact, only 10% of local snakes are ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs.

Through education and awareness campaigns, one can learn to coexist with these reptiles.

After all, snakes play an important role in the ecosystem by preying on insects and rodents to control the ᴘᴇsᴛ population.

1. Colourful snakes are ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs

Some snakes have bright colours to warn off predators while others have patterned scales to help them camouflage and blend with the environment for protection. However, not all bright-coloured snakes are ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs. Colours portrayed are more for helping to differentiate between male and female. For example, the Monocled Cobra is solid black or brown and the Siamese Pit-Vipers can be plain green but both are very ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs. However, the brightly-coloured Twin-barred Flying Snake is ʜᴀʀᴍless and non-ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs.

2. Baby snakes are more ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs than adult snakes

An adult snake is capable of emitting a larger portion of ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍ compared to a younger snake. Studies showed that the activity level of some ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍ enzymes tend to increase with the size and age. Younger snakes are perceived to be more ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs because generally, they lack the ability to control their ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍ dosage when they ʙɪᴛᴇ. Adults reserve their precious ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍ, which takes time to produce, to ʜᴜɴᴛ for food.

3. All snakes lay eggs

Although most reptiles lay eggs, not all snakes do. Some snakes, such as the Oriental Vine Snake, give birth to live young (viviparity).

4. Snakes are slimy

Snakes are often associated with slugs and snails which produce slime to ease their movement. Although slithering snakes may look wet because of their shiny skin, they actually have dry scaly skin and do not produce slime. The ventral scales assist in gripping the surface and help the snake move forward.

5. Slit-eyed snakes are ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs

While this method has been taught to identify snakes, it is wrong. Snakes with elliptical pupils, similar to a cat’s eye (slit-eyed), can be ʜᴀʀᴍless and it is vice-versa for those with round pupils. For example, the Mangrove Catsnake is non or less ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs while the Siamese Pit Viper is ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs but both have vertical elliptical pupils. The non-ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs Puff-faced Water Snake and the ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs Sumatran Spitting Cobra both have round pupils.

6. Snake-cʜᴀʀᴍing

While most people are amused at how snakes move to the music played by snake cʜᴀʀᴍers, the fact is that snakes cannot hear the same way as we do and they are not musically inclined. They actually sway to the movement of the flute. They are excellent at detecting movement, similar to tracking their prey’s movement.

7. Snakes are vengeful

There is a saying that if you ᴋɪʟʟ a snake, its ᴍᴀᴛᴇ will take revenge. There is no scientific evidence to show that snakes can recognise faces or even process complex concepts like friendship and vengeance. If the area is a good habitat for snakes, there are probably more than one lurking around. This myth was born when another snake was noticed after one was ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ, during snake ᴍᴀᴛɪɴɢ season.

8. Sulfur as snake repellant

Using sulfur as a natural snake repellent is common with many people, but there is no scientific evidence to show that this method really works. The best practical way to keep snakes away from your home is to get rid of weeds and clutter as well as gaps or holes, to prevent snakes from hiding. It is also advisable to eradicate a snake’s food source, such as rats and frogs.

9. Snakes with triangular heads are ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs

This misconception stems from the fact that vipers, which are ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs, have relatively angular heads with sharp snouts that look triangular. The head and jaw structure of most snakes are somewhat triangular but that does not mean they are ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs. For example, snakes under the elapidae family such as cobras, kraits and coral snakes are highly ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs but have blunt snouts. The Oriental Vine Snake, which has a precise angular head, is ʜᴀʀᴍless.

10. Snakes are ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪᴠᴇ

Snakes are more afraid of us than we are of them. They are generally docile and shy creatures and if given a choice, a snake will flee as fast as possible rather than ʀɪsᴋ getting ɪɴjᴜʀᴇᴅ by sᴛʀɪᴋing something 10 or 20 times larger than them and wasting precious ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍ. Unless cornered or ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛened, like any other living thing, snakes will sᴛʀɪᴋe to protect itself.

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