Nature’s Most Misunderstood Reptile


Aya Schlueter, Journalist

Snakes are one of the most misunderstood animals out there, some people are uneasy around snakes, and others are downright terrified of them. 56% of American adults claim they have a fear of snakes. Snakes are really fascinating animals, and they can be great pets for a lot of people, but fear derived from misinformation drives so many people away from these great creatures.

There are so many articles and videos that represent snakes very poorly. The first article is “Stop Keeping Snakes As Pets” by Ben Williamson. First, it tells us about a woman who’s snake killed her by constricting around her neck. This is horrible of course, but compare the number of deaths caused by pet snakes and the amount of deaths caused by dogs. “There are about 5 million dog-bite cases annually in the U.S., Polsky estimated. Around 30 to 40 people die each year from their injuries, and an estimated 100,000 are injured badly enough to require plastic surgery or extensive suturing, according to Polsky. Most fatal dog attacks involve pit bulls.” 

“Seventeen people have died from large constrictor snake related incidents in the United States since 1978—12 just since 1990—including one person who suffered a heart attack during a violent struggle with his python and a woman who died from a Salmonella infection.” That’s a huge difference, seventeen in over 30 years from snakes and 30-50 a year from dogs.

“…keep dozens in small glass tanks throughout their houses with only a small plastic rock and heat lamp to mimic — poorly — the conditions snakes would experience in the wild.” This statement is simply not true in most cases. Look at all these beautiful ball python vivariums people have built to give their snakes an amazing environment.

These are such lush, high-quality homes for a snake, and I don’t know how people can say no one treats their reptiles right. The next piece about snakes is called “Five Reasons Never To Buy Snakes,” by Jennifer O’Connor. Their first point is about wild-caught snakes, “Breeders sell animals en masse, and most reptiles are stolen from their native habitats for a lucrative industry that treats sensitive and fragile animals…” The most popular pet snake in the U.S is the ball python, a vast majority of which are bred in captivity, and the few people who are selling wild pythons are not being supported. No one wants to buy a wild ball python, no fancy colors, and more risk of disease. Another one of their reasons is that captivity is cruel. “Rather than exploring lush jungles and swamps and experiencing all the sensory pleasures that they’re so keenly attuned to…” This statement shows the writer is just plain uneducated about snakes. Snakes do not care about exploring jungles and swamps. They just want to stay safe, warm, and fed. Snakes feel really safe when they’re in small spaces. It feels like they’re underground where no predators can hurt them.

There are so many claims about snakes being so terrifying that a snake owner would laugh at. There are so many ridiculous stories about snakes “measuring people” by wrapping around them to see if they could eat them. Snakes wrap around people for warmth, not to eat them. Snakes are not intelligent enough to do something like this, and they do not recognize people as prey. One of the worst myths about snakes is that they are all venomous. Most snakes do not use venom, and their bites are just like being poked with a thumbtack. Another misconception, similar to the measuring one, people think snakes will try to eat people when they’re asleep, or awake depending on who you ask. When people picture snakes in their heads, they often picture a vicious monster that is desperate to bite them. This is not accurate at all. If a snake sees you going towards it, it’s first instinct will be to run.

Snakes are good pets, easy to care for, and docile. Their care might sound complicated, but it is a lot easier than expected. Two of the nicest things about keeping a pet snake are, they don’t need a lot of space, and they barely eat anything. Ball pythons eat every 10-14 days, and some larger snakes only eat once or twice a month. Most small snakes can be kept in 10-20 gallon tanks for their whole lives, and some medium snakes like kingsnakes and ball pythons can live in 30-50 gallon tanks. Just because snakes are cold blooded doesn’t mean they aren’t fun to interact with. Reptiles might not love you, but they do become used to you and associate you with good things like being fed, warmth, and safety. Snakes are quiet and usually slow, so they are relaxing to hang out with. If rodents gross you out too much, and that’s what deters you from snakes, try looking into snakes that do not eat mice or rats. Small snakes like rough/smooth green snakes and garter snakes eat insects. There are also egg-eating snakes, African and Egyptian egg-eating snakes. 

Snakes are one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and misunderstood animals in the world. They are not the terrifying beasts some people think they are. In reality, they are shy and calm animals. It’s a shame such biased pieces are being released about these animals every day. Most people, even animal lovers, think reptiles are simply unsuitable as pets. Being able to understand something makes it less scary, the more people are educated about snakes the more people will respect them as the inquisitive and interesting animals they are.

Thank you “Ball pythons are wild animals. Not pets.” made by World Animal Protection for inspiring me to write this article.