Animal Anecdote 33.
As I look back on my life see many examples of the results of poor education that I think should be told. I suppose some stupid actions are because of teaching such as the bible story of the evil snake. One example concerned me as a teen ager. We had moved to the country when I was 10 and suddenly the great outdoors became a most exciting place. Among other things the snakes interested me and in particular the common Black Racer. There had to be hundred of them as I could look and find many examples in a short time.
A friend of mine stumbled on the hibernacula of those snakes one spring when the occupants were coming out for the first sun after a long winter if inactivity. He rushed home to tell another friend and together with boxes of shotgun shells and their guns shot every snake that appeared. From that day until recently I have not seen or heard of one Black Racer in our Town.
Another case of poor education concerned Eastern Timber Rattlesnakes, a few of which Vermont may still have. It concerned a den in the northwest corner of Conn. The head preparator (taxidermist) of Yale’s Peabody museum wanted some specimens to study individual scales of which he wanted to paint plaster models of the snakes for display after which we would return the snakes to their hibernacula.
On arriving we found long tree branches with large fish hooks tapped to the ends obviously for hooking the snakes from number huge flat rocks where they could be dragged out and killed. Those creatures high on a mountain were no danger to anyone but I suppose the returning hunters could brag about their contribution to mankind or they could sell the rattles and hides.
Between our catching and releasing the snakes is about what this contribution is all about. I kept one beautiful light phase of the species in my “snake house” and many friends wanted to see it. A week after returning I took a friend in and there was not one but 10 Timber Rattlesnakes. The snake, about which I had not even considered pregnancy, had delivered her brood of 9 beautiful young creatures.
To keep track of their eating habits I separated each in a round fish bowl with a screen top and lined them up in a row on a book shelf. That night a 10 foot long Burmese Python escaped and in its exploration of the snake house crawled behind the fish bowls and knocked each crashing to the floor.
The water for the snakes and for my wife, Dorothy’s Gordon Setters was in the snake house and she had entered and left half a dozen times walking within inches of at least one young rattler with disturbing it. We returned 12 healthy well fed rattlesnakes instead of the three. Dorothy lived to tell the tale. A new water supply saved the marriage She even visited the snake house when necessary.
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