The newest exhibit inside our Deserts Dome – Size, Speed & Venom: Extreme Snakes — introduces guests to some rare and remarkable species from around the globe. From the deadly black mamba to the humongous reticulated python, you can safely come face to face with about 25 different snakes here.
Outside, there are also plenty of harmless native snakes living elsewhere around the Zoo and most likely in areas close to you, too — from gardens and parks to forests and even your backyard.
Snakes are incredibly important to ecosystems across the world because they bring balance to the food web. Patrolling the corn and soybean fields throughout Indiana, these predators eat small animals, such as rodents and birds. But they are also preyed upon by other animals, including bigger snakes!
Snakes also help humans by reducing disease in the environment. In Indiana, ticks are carriers of Lyme disease, but when timber rattlesnakes eat rodents that have ticks, they reduce the presence of Lyme disease.
Despite all the helpful benefits of having snakes around, myths and misconceptions often perpetuate people’s fears.
A big misconception Deserts Area Manager Lewis Single hears from guests is that snakes are slimy. Surprisingly, snake scales are made of a protein called keratin – the same as our hair and fingernails. This means that they are smooth to the touch, which you can experience during one of our seasonal python chats.
Another misconception is that snakes are aggressive, when most are shy and prefer not to be bothered. And most are more afraid of humans than we are of them. Even though snakes can often live close to us, we are large animals in their eyes, and they will only strike if they feel threatened. You can stay safe by being careful where you put your hands and feet when you’re outdoors.
Of Indiana’s 33 native snake species, only four are venomous – and those four are all part of Extreme Snakes. So while most snakes in Indiana are harmless, it’s important to educate yourself about snakes in your area and which ones are dangerous.
You can make your home safe for yourself and snakes by doing a few simple things. First, keep your yard tidy; snakes like to hide under boards and in tall grass. Also snakes will hunt where they can find food, so checking for small crevices and openings will help keep snakes and rodents outdoors.
When you’re out in nature, be conscious of where you put your hands and feet. Snakes like to curl up in dark, quiet places during the heat of the day.
But most importantly, if you find a snake, leave it be. Trying to touch or move it may scare it into striking. Instead, put space between yourself and these incredible animals and enjoy them in their natural setting.
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