Snakes and reptiles don’t make good apparel choices neither do humans as we’ll see. Today I came across what I thought (hoped) would be an intelligent discussion on why it’s never a good idea to place any reptile around your face; much less wrap a snake around your neck. What I saw, was the exact opposite. I won’t go into the details of the discussion here but I can say one thing for absolute certain. My opinion, was very much the minority. I wasn’t attacked or even addressed in a personal manner. The ensuing diatribe was disheartening to me though.
I’m well aware of people who claim
“I can predict my (insert favorite species of animal) behavior and read their body language.”
I’m guilty of thinking such. Yet I cannot remember anytime in my life where I’ve made such a statement to anyone. I’ve never allowed anyone to place a reptile or any other ‘exotic’ species near my face. Some would refer to this as being paranoid, overly cautious, and various other unsavory terms.
I cannot tell you with any certainty as to why, I developed or hold this belief. The fact of the matter is simple. Each and every animal, exotic or domestic, can bite you. Whether said ‘bite’ is serious depends of course on the animal we’re dealing with.
For example, a Koi sucking on your finger while ‘cute’ is still a bite; albeit non-life threatening. An animal of any kind, placing any part of you, in its mouth is in fact a bite. Many of my colleagues I’ve worked with over the years be it in canine training or working with reptiles have, at one time or another joked with one another
“If there’s no blood, it’s not a real bite.”
Before going on, I’ve been bitten numerous times. I’ve been envenomated by a couple of invertebrates and even one snake Garter snake (Thamnophis sp.) I’ve kept as pets. These were painful learning experiences, I hope I don’t repeat. Each time I was bitten, I knew the risks involved in working with the animals. When I did dog training, I did this on purpose. I was the agitator who’d wear the heavy padded suit and run away from the pursuing dog and take the bite. I received some deep bruises in those days. I never got a real bite that drew blood or required medical attention.
Legitimate Vs Illegitimate
Now then we also have to consider what constitutes what some call a legitimate bite versus an illegitimate bite. To save time, a legitimate bite would be one where there’s no provocation. This means you’re minding your own business and just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. An illegitimate bite would entail someone placing themselves purposefully in harm’s way.
If you’re placing a snake or any animal around your face, you’re creating a situation ripe with opportunity for an illegitimate bite. When speaking of reptiles, in this case snakes. They’re limbless animals with what most consider limited capabilities to interact with their world. Whether that’s accurate or not is for another piece. Being they have no limbs they make use of their tails and bodies to hold onto objects. When placed around the neck of a human a snake has little distance to move to bite the face. In case there’s any doubt reptiles have teeth, lots of them.
Snakes have six rows of teeth two on the top and four on the bottom. These are recurved to the back of the throat so as to prevent any escaping prey item. When these come into contact with soft human skin rather than the fur, feathers, or sometimes rough scales of lizards they’re going to leave some trace. This is specifically true when it comes to the face.
Reptile Facials are Painful
This goes for ANY reptile not just snakes. I’ve discussed at least one of my mistakes, while I can laugh about it now at the time it wasn’t funny at all. I didn’t get tagged for which I’m thankful. Today I see a lot of folks interacting with the public and using their reptiles in educational settings. Part of the presentations as those who are doing them now can attest to was answering questions. It would seem inevitable question is always raised.
‘Does it bite?’
My partner and I always answered
“Anything with a mouth can and may bite you if given an opportunity.”
It’s just that simple. Anyone with children or even younger siblings can attest to being bitten by their kin. Why would a pet be any different After all we’re all ‘animals’.
With a recent survey we did, we discovered the following. 87% of those surveyed knew of someone who’d been bitten or scratched above the shoulders by a reptile. 58% of those surveyed were personally involved with being bitten and or scratched above the shoulders. With that though a significant caveat, 71% of those were lacerations requiring a band-aid.
Over half of the people responding were bitten and or scratched in the face. That’s a significant number by my standards. While I’m not dismissing the fact most didn’t require more than a band-aid there were in fact a few who received stitches or required surgery. We as reptile owners must be aware of the risks and accept them as they are. We should also use that knowledge to take advantage of preventing injury to both ourselves and especially the public.
We’ve seen the media storms when someone is injured by a reptile. We’ve also seen the same with various breeds of dog yesterday it was Doberman’s, today it’s Pit Bulls. When a reptile causes an injury it catches the public attention because of its inherent novelty as not only an animal but more so because it’s an exotic pet. We as keepers need to quell or prevent these incidents from happening at all and that means being responsible period.
Reptiles don’t make a good wardrobe choice for anyone. The risks are there and documented. If you want to wear a snake then so be it. Please, for the sake of herpetoculture keep them away from others or at minimum keep the head under your personal control at all times. If this means getting in the photo with the audience then do it. It ONLY takes one incident to end a business and create potential legislation smashing any hopes of someone who is being responsible from continuing their work.