Saturday, August 15, 2009

Baby, the pet Boa

The wholesale workers at the New Haven food market have an agreement with Yale biologists that if they find any kind of unusual creature in shipments of produce they receive from a distance they will let the Yale folks know. When a worker, when cutting hands of bananas from the stalk found a snake, Yale was called but the worker had slashed the snake in three places through ribs and exposing internal anatomy. They called me and asked if I would suture an injured boa constrictor.
On examination I assumed the injuries would result in death. Using the only anesthetic I knew of in those days that would not kill the snake, refrigeration, I placed it in the refrigerator for a few hours and sutured at least the skin over the wounds. Being a tropical creature I placed it in a 95 degree isolation ward. A week later the snake, excepting for the sutures and scars appeared to be normal. I trapped a wild mouse and offered it to the snake which grasped, constricted and ate it. I phoned the Yale folks and told them the snake was ready to go. They hemmed and hawed and said they could not have use of such a scarred snake and did I want it? I took it home for a pet for the children of which there were three at that time. That was the beginning of an unplanned experiment. I offered the snake to each child and Carolyn, the oldest was reluctant to touch it but the younger children had no reluctance in not only handling it but holding it to their lips as young children do with toys. As the children aged there came a time when suddenly and for no observable reason they accepted the snake with just a bit of reluctance. Several points were of interest to me. First none of four children ever squeezed the snake as they did toys. Second as babes they were not in the least afraid of the creature until about a year of age when the reluctance appeared. Third, each child grew up not fearing such creatures. When many if not all mammals are suddenly confronted with a sake such as a horse and rider, the horse frequently bucks, throwing the rider. Cattle going to pasture finds the lead animal veering away from a snake on the path to avoid it. I have to conclude by such observation that a fear of snakes is very likely an inherited character fulfilling Darwin's survival of those who gave venomous reptiles a wide birth. Those of our ancestors who did not fear them did not survive the venomous snakes in by gone days. Study of our gnomes may throw some light on that subject.

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