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Please stop for snakes on Whidbey roads | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the editor:
The last two times I have been out driving, I’ve seen three dead snakes, probably hit by cars as they tried to cross roads or sunned themselves on warm pavement. Drivers may have mistaken them for sticks or vines.
On warm days, I watch for snakes in the road. If I see one moving, I stop the car and wait for him to cross the road. If the snake is motionless on the road but unhurt, I use a stick to prod him off the road (being careful of traffic myself). If the snake has been mortally injured but is still alive, I do my best to put him out of his misery, because snakes can take a long time to die, and they feel pain as intensely as we do.
Even people who appreciate the sentience and consciousness of other mammals may still view reptiles, amphibians, fish, crustaceans and even birds as unfeeling automatons. In addition to such misperceptions, widespread fear and loathing of snakes make people even less likely to go out of their way to avoid harming them.
On top of whatever instinctive fear of snakes may exist within us, there is a greater amount of cultural conditioning that leads to hatred and persecution of these animals. When I was a young child, I remember holding and petting the snakes and frogs my big brother would pick up to show me. Then I was told that girls are supposed to despise slimy creatures, and something shifted in my attitude. My next childhood memory of reptiles was of me urging someone to throw a stone at a snake resting innocently on a rock. Children naturally relate to animals as kindred spirits but are easily taught to think otherwise.
Snakes may not inspire affection, but you don’t have to love a species of animal to feel compassion for its suffering or to have respect for its place in nature. Drivers, look out for snakes, and give them a “brake” just as you brake for other creatures.
Kim Bartlett Clifton