Published On: Fri, May 31st, 2013

Rat Snakes: Looks alone is the enemy

Lucknow: Mere mention of its name sends shiver down the spine and probably this is the reason for the immediate issuance of a death warrant for this animal on being spotted. The animal in question is none other than the snake.

On being approached by humans, these snakes beat a hasty retreat but when it feels cornered, it can inflict a painful bite but since it is non venomous, the bite is never fatal

On being approached by humans, these snakes beat a hasty retreat but when it feels cornered, it can inflict a painful bite but since it is non venomous, the bite is never fatal

Humans have an inherent fear for this reptile and as soon as one is spotted, people ensure that it is killed. This is despite the fact that except for a few species like cobra, viper, king cobra and krait, the remaining that are found in India are more or less non-poisonous. In a sense by killing all the snakes that are seen, the mankind is doing a great loss to themselves because these poor reptiles are excellent natural pest controllers.

Take for instance the case of rat snakes. These snakes in the first place are non-poisonous and interestingly its preys are rodents, frogs, birds etc. that cause extensive damage to the crops in the fields as well as in the warehouses.

It is worth mentioning here that in India, rats alone cause a damage of around 5 to 10 per cent of stored food grains per annum. Apart from that, rats not only eat the food grains but also contaminate it with their faecal droppings, urine and hairs.

Rat snakes that are distributed all over India survive in toughest of conditions ranging from deserts, humid forests, hilly tract, cultivated fields and human dwellings. A full grown rat snake can be around 2.5 meter of length. Their head is broader than their neck and they have varied colours ranging from yellow, brown, olive and grey. Since they are very fast movers, they are rated amongst the fastest snakes of the Indian sub-continent.

These snakes hunt during the day time and in the nights they hide in the rodent burrows, termite mounds, under rocks or wood logs.
On being approached by humans, these snakes beat a hasty retreat but when it feels cornered, it can inflict a painful bite but since it is non venomous, the bite is never fatal.

Their resemblance to cobras and king cobras is a bane as on being spotted, they are mercilessly killed by humans, who are unaware of the fact that they have killed one of their own beneficiaries.

 

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