A new threat to summertime fun: Snakes playing possum

Summer itself can be a great example of the vast dichotomies of life.

On one hand, the weather is often far more preferable than other times of the year, leading to the quintessential “fun and sun” tropes.  School is out for many students, and their grateful to be relaxing teachers, lending an air of recreation and leisure to the entire ordeal.

We spend more time outside, surely, and swimming is one of those unique human pleasures that we look forward to for months and months out of the year.

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And don’t get me started on what warm weather does to motorcyclists.

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But, as with anything ostensibly great, there are detractions to be had…especially in the south.  We Waffle-House enthusiasts have a whole new gamut of issues to deal with once the days get longer.

Mosquitoes, ticks, poison ivy, tornados, and other hazards of life are a purely summertime thing for many Americans, and we find ourselves spending plenty of time preparing for them.

Snakes are a particularly nasty nuisance the nation over, with a number of venomous serpents dotting the landscape of the United States.  When you understand how these creatures operate, you are able to avoid harm with some degree of certainty, (except in the case of Copperheads, who are direct descendants of the devil himself and strike with no more warning than the smell of fresh cucumbers).

But what about snakes who play dead?

“The hognose snake will feign death by opening its mouth, rolling over on its back, and writhing around. If turned over onto its belly, it will immediately roll again onto its back,” according to Herpsofnc.org.

Worse still, hognose snakes are also known for flaring their neck like a cobra when threatened, and “they may strike repeatedly,” says the site. That habit has earned them the name “puff adder,” says Herpsofnc.

The cobra-like look has given rise to countless myths, reports the Florida Museum, including folklore that a “hognose snake can mix venom with its breath and is thus able to kill a person from a distance of twenty-five feet.”

Luckily for all involved, the bite of the hognose snake is nonvenomous, but you won’t find too many folks lining up to test the theory…especially given the propensity of these creatures for repeated attacks.

And while this snake may play possum, the Hognose does not possess the more amenable attributes of North America’s only marsupial – namely that opossums have a voracious appetite for the aforementioned ticks.


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