World Snake Day 2018

July 19, 2018 • 7:45 am

by Greg Mayer

World Snake Day was this past Monday, July 16, and I missed it! I didn’t find out till Tuesday, and so a little snake catch up today. I did in fact, have two snake encounters on Monday. First, with Vivian, my 20+ year old ball python (Python regius), whom I see almost every day. It was just a “Hi, how are ya”, since it wasn’t time for feeding, and her water bowl didn’t need refilling. Here’s Vivian at a reptile demonstration at an alumni event at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside a few years ago. Vivian often participates in such public events, and is usually the star of the show. Ball pythons are probably the best choice for a reptile pet.

Vivian, a ball python, at an alumni event, August 29, 2015.

I also checked in on Hissy, a bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi), for my colleague Chris Noto. Bullsnakes do not make as good pets as ball pythons– Hissy is pretty ‘bitey’. The reason this one is kept is that it is an escaped captive that was recaught, and, though native to Wisconsin, the species is not from this area, and thus there was no known locality to which Hissy could be returned.

Hissy, a bullsnake.

As a parting tribute to World Snake Day, here’s Bill Haast, late director of the Miami Serpentarium. He was bitten by venomous snakes over 100 times, and had developed antibodies to a variety of venoms that enabled him to donate blood as a treatment to other snake-bite victims. Despite his many bites, he lived to be 100! I saw this near life-size photo of him in the Miami airport during a visit last March.

“William Haast with a cobra at the Miami Serpentarium, ca. 1965” (A similar photo in the NY Times obit is said to be from the 1950s.)

If you want to learn more about snakes, I recommend, as I have before, Harry Greene‘s Snakes: the Evolution of Mystery in Nature (U. Cal. Press, 1997) as a good, well-illustrated, introduction to their natural history and diversity.

h/t C.N. Mayer

30 thoughts on “World Snake Day 2018

    1. O ! my, my, … … my, my, my ! .THAT.
      is fantastic, JezGrove ! Only 99,000,000,000 or so
      years’ time ago ! WHAT a find !


      1. Oooo, kinda off in the decimal – deal !
        … … ie, 99,000,000 years or so !

        Just a youngun … … then !


  1. … here’s Bill Haast, late director of the Miami Serpentarium.

    Wow, that’s some old-school Mia-ma right there — back in the days when gas stations gave away orange juice with every fill-up and tourists took baby alligators home as souvenirs.

    Ol’ Bill Haast was a legend — though (as the Donald is wont to say) not many people know that (nowadays anyway).

    1. I remember as a 11 year old, my father came back from a business trip to Miami with a “pet” alligator as a present for me. It was about 18″ long, and was a nine-day wonder at my local junior school. God knows how he brought it back, but I guess there was no TSA back then.

      After a few weeks we donated it to the local zoo in Glasgow. Happy days!

    2. I saw Bill Haast in the ‘70’s doing his live Cobra milking performance. There was a HUGE salt water crocodile on display there that killed a young child when it fell into the enclosure. I read that Bill killed the crock the next day. There’s a good wiki page on Bill if your interested.

  2. Oh phooey! I missed World Snake Day even though I’d written the date down somewhere and intended to be happy about snakes that day.

    I’m the happy mom to my pretty girl, Julius Squeezer, and her buddy Stimpy. They’re ball pythons. Julius is 25 and Stimpy is 29. There was Nicholas who is now 24, but he’s living with my son-in-law and somewhat reluctant daughter.

    I understand ball pythons can live into their forties. These snakes will probably outlive me.

    My s-i-l asked my daughter if she thought he could come over and “meet” the snakes. Next thing he asked if he could come over and “visit” the snakes. And then he asked if he could “borrow” one of the snakes. That has to be some eight or nine years ago, or maybe more? Quite a long-term loan. 😉

    I did not buy these snakes from a pet store. Julius was abandoned by her owner and now she’s my beautiful girl. I got Stimpy when his owner could no longer keep him due to changed living circumstances. Nicholas came to me because his owner no longer wanted him. Animals are not merchandise and while I do love snakes I am not happy about irresponsible snake sellers and buyers and people who dump their unwanted Burmese pythons in Florida.

    And as I said, they will probably outlive me, which means that I have to make plans. I don’t want to just dump them. I don’t know that my son-in-law will be up to having three snakes, and I don’t know what the SPCA would do with them. I need to do some looking around.

  3. I wouldn’t say that ball pythons have personalities. But they do have their own dispositions. Stimpy is shy and kind of eccentric. Nicholas is an alpha snake and will be dominant when he’s with another snake. Julius is somewhere in between, neither shy nor dominant, but very pleasant.

  4. I’d say that if you want to start keeping snakes, the corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) would be a good beginner’s choice. Non poisonous, with an amicable character, reluctant to bite and great, attractive patterned looks, easy in the upkeep. Harmless to anything bigger than a rat. Moreover, their conservation status is ‘least concern’. You can’t go wrong with a Corn Snake.

    1. My voice teacher recently obtained a baby corn snake for her daughter. Said snake escaped from its tank about ten days ago and has yet to be found. Despite the fact that it would clearly be no threat to me (and yes I’m well aware that my fears are irrational), I don’t think I’d be capable of staying in that house!

    2. I have been raising corn snakes for more than 25 years. My first was an adult female that was run over by a Honda in front of our home and survived, earning the name Speed Bump. When I rescued an adult male from the school gym I started breeding them every year so my students could watch the eggs hatch in my classroom. The students were fascinated. I will add to Nicky’s comment that corn snakes are available as captive bred babies at a low price. They are beautiful animals.

    3. I’d think a corn snake would be absolutely lovely! But they can go so fast! How to catch the snake if she gets loose…

      Ball pythons are s l o w. Can’t outrun you…

  5. Serpentarium? Another institution for weird “-ium” list.

    I got thinking about this because of the “Minimum Security Orphanarium” on _Futurama_. Then I found that Montreal had a Natatorium, which is a pretty weird word too.

  6. The bull snakes I have encountered were ‘strikey’, in that they put on a big show mimicking a rattle snake. But I was never bitten by one.
    Now, water snakes, however…

  7. Back in 1980 something a couple of friends and I came across a large dark snake and decided to catch it. It turned out to be an indigo about 3″ inches (76 millimeters) in diameter and about 6.5 feet (2 meters) long. It looked very healthy and was absolutely gorgeous. It’s scales were flawless, not a scuff or scar to be found. The colors were mesmerizing.

    Not knowing any better we took it home and put together a very nice habitat for it. It was very aggressive and would as soon bite you as look at you. Any time anyone would move to within a certain distance of it it would start to hiss, a low, heavy, ominous hiss. Not the typical little wimpy snake hiss. It sounded very much like Darth Vader’s breathing sounds played at half speed, so naturally we named it Darth.

    A couple of weeks after we captured it we discovered that it was illegal to do so. We took it back to the exact place we found it and released it. Though I’ve seen a fair number of other indigos since, in the wild and in zoos, I’ve never seen one that was as impressive or as a beautiful as Darth was.

    1. Aaaaw, Mr darrelle, .that. is a d a r l i n g story !

      My three kiddos would ‘ve done the same things
      had they themselves in childhood’s nature explorations
      come across such a being.

      We, for years after J’s ninth birthday choice,
      owned Rex, a female Eastern Florida Kingsnake. I loved her, too; she actually was out
      of her aquarium for supervised exercising slithers.
      Across the carpeting; just had to make certain
      that she did not get near the baseboard vents !

      But acquiring her groceries from Mr M’s ARK Pet Shop
      ( religious he was … … ) was The Worst.
      I always begged him to triple – bag and
      to triple – staple that container.

      And, stat, drove them straightaway home to Rex’s ( a she – snake J would .not. name her Regina since he wanted the Latin Rex ! for her name )
      aquarium. I could .not.not.not. have mice
      loooosed within the stationwagon !


      1. 🙂

        Our kids seem similar with respect to critter-catching. Seems like mine where on a 1st name basis with every critter within a 2 mile radius of our home. And feeding snakes little furry rodents? I’m with you on that.

        Unfortunately I can not claim the innocence of youth. I was college age at the time and probably should have known better. But no harm done! (I hope!)

  8. Thanks for the book reference. Hopefully our library has it.

    In 5th grade, our teacher kept a lot of snakes. My favorite was a California King; it was very docile and didn’t mind being held. He/she shat on my shoulder once though. Horrible stench and embarrassment. At least I was allowed to go home and change.

    One of my uncles had a Rosy Boa and a Boa Constrictor for many years. Both were well behaved, beautiful snakes, but the Constricor was huge and I was afraid to handle it.

    1. How different from my grade 2 French teacher, who (while on schoolyard duty) took a garter snake from a classmate of mine and flung it over the school yard fence (into a nearby railway ditch) because it was “dangerous”. Even at that age I knew the snake was harmless.

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