Snakes


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Sleek and graceful, perfectly designed to do what they do, no other animal is more misunderstood or unnecessarily feared. Of all the species of snakes in the United States, only four are poisonous; rattlesnakes, water moccasins, copperheads, and coral snakes. To put things in perspective, far more people die every year from bee stings than from snakebites. That's not to say that snakes won't bite. All snakes have many sharp teeth and most won't hesitate to bite when threatened or cornered.

Snakes are "cold-blooded", that is, they have no internal mechanism for maintaining a constant body temperature. When it's cold outside, their body temperature will drop, making them sluggish and slow moving. When it's hot outside, their body temperature will raise, dangerously if they don't find shelter. All snakes are carnivorous and they swallow their food whole. A snake's jaws are not hinged, only loosely connected with ligaments, so they can't chew. Although snakes can go for long periods without eating (being "cold-blooded", they digest their food very slowly), most are opportunistic eaters. Like kids in a candy store, when they find food, they will eat everything in sight.

Snakes don't have external ears, so they can't hear, but they are very sensitive to vibrations. They don't have particularly good vision, but their eyes are excellent motion detectors. And to top everything else, snakes smell with their tongues. A surprising number of people believe snakes use their tongues as stingers. Actually, when a snake flicks its tongue out, it is catching particles in the air on the tip. The snake then uses a special sensory organ in the roof of its mouth to identify food or foe.

In spite of these apparent shortcomings, snakes have the dubious honor of causing more substation outages than any animal except birds. And just so no one will feel left out, snakes cause more distribution underground outages than any other animal except mice.

We would like to remind you folks in the Southeast that the Eastern Indigo snake (largest snake in the United States) is on the Threatened and Endangered list (50 CFR 17.11). Any outage involving the injury or death of this snake will involve various state and federal agencies. In fact, this would be a good place to suggest that it would benefit all utilities to identify any protected species living in their service territory.

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