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posted: 12/7/2013 4:40 AM

Snakes don't deserve unsavory reputation

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Snakes don't deserve unsavory reputation

As one of the volunteer snake monitors at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, I've gotten my fair share of snake questions, and from this, I must conclude that most of us share a complete ignorance of the suborder Serpentes.

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Snakes' negative connotation derives itself from a combination of religious depictions, childhood forewarnings, and plain old ignorance. The media's portrayal of snakes, in particular, has a major influence on the public's perception of these misunderstood animals.

As more and more photos of slain snakes circulate throughout social media sites like Facebook, any positive connotation regarding these animals is lost in the shadow of praise given to the "hero" that killed the innocent animal. Venomous or not, these creatures are an integral part of the ecosystem and do not deserve to be indiscriminately killed.

With our next generation of role models like Animal Planet's "Turtle Man," children's perception of snakes is becoming increasingly obscured when the so-called "expert" can't even identify the native snake species in his area without handling the possibly dangerous snakes themselves. I assure you that identifying snake species is not as difficult as reality TV makes it out to be and can be done by simply viewing from afar.

Northeastern Illinois is home to one venomous species of snake known as the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, but there's no need to fret, they've been extirpated from the region by the hand of man. Luckily, there still are over a dozen other harmless species in the region that can still be encountered, some more easily than others.

I urge you to do your research, and come spring, take a day to meet your neighbors. Walk through a forest preserve and look under something you normally wouldn't -- a chunk of asphalt, a piece of felt, an old board -- you might surprise yourself.

Tristan Schramer

Wheaton

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