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