put on your faces – diamondback water snake

Close-up of a diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer) slithering through dry leaves (2009_03_08_012928)

Diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer)

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W. C. Fields once said, “I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake—which I also keep handy.”  Humorous though it is, it speaks to something I’ve never understood: ophidiophobia (or ophiophobia), the excessive fear of snakes.

I can understand the fear of being bitten by a venomous snake.  That goes hand in hand with the fear of being in an airplane crash or falling into a vat of acid.

But the general and overriding fear of all snakes no matter the circumstances or level of threat?  That I just don’t comprehend.

17 thoughts on “put on your faces – diamondback water snake”

  1. I carpool with just 2 such snake fearing gentlemen, and I ride that pony all I can, telling them they are missing some interesting things by not sticking around to study snakes. So far they remain unconvinced.

    Nice shot!

    1. Thanks, Mom! I keep remembering you reaching into the chicken nest in the dark and realizing there was a big snake in there as you felt around for eggs. I can imagine the scene had one of your carpool buddies been there. The idea tickles me!

  2. I love snakes and consider it a blessing (in a totally unreligious way) each time I see one. There’s still a nanosecond-long, visceral, Omigod! moment of alarm with each viewing. I guess it’s my inner cavegirl looking out for my wellbeing.

    Yeah, nice shot!

    1. Too funny, Jain! Inner cavegirl. You know, I wonder about that–if the widespread fear goes back that far. It would explain why it’s so common. Then again, mythologies have done a lot to disparage snakes, so I wonder if perhaps that is to blame.

      And thanks! I’m glad you like the photo.

  3. Great pic, Jason. Very nice looking snake. Must admit that I was terrified of snakes. Still do but macro/closeup photography has lessened my fear for them. I’ve even photographed two different snakes with my MPE65. That’s 4″ away from front of lens to subject!

    1. Thanks, Kurt! Your “immersion therapy” sounds just right for you. You love photography, so overcoming your fear was the only way to get the pictures you wanted to capture. Getting up close and personal with snakes would certainly show their more charming side.

  4. That is a snake of great character. Beautifully captured Jason.

    My dad was terrified of snakes. I once saw him do a sort of mad chimpanzee dance when confronted with an adder on a warm, sun-dappled forest path. He hopped about retreating and approaching and retreating again, by turns flapping his arms and clutching his head. I think he would have fled had my two dogs not been so fascinated by the snake, clearly wary though unwilling to obey his entreaties and come away. It would have been funny but for his distress, and so although I knew the dogs would be OK, I called them to heel and we returned by the route we’d come on. He told me that when a boy he’d once inadvertently sat on a nest of young adders concealed in a dry-stone wall, and that the memory had stuck and made him uneasy in the presence of snakes. He’d had a lucky escape with that one, as juvenile adders are as venomous as adults.

    1. I appreciate it, Clive! Glad you like it.

      The story about your father would certainly explain his fear, assuming he wasn’t sure his luck would hold through a second encounter. Though I think I would have thought of it the other way around: if sitting on them didn’t provoke a mass attack, perhaps they aren’t as villainous as I was led to believe (which they aren’t, but convincing most people of that seems to be an exercise in futility).

  5. I agree completely with Jain. Sometimes, just to be mischievous, I like to pick up snakes when I know that it will strike fear or loathing into folks nearby. However, once an Eastern Garter Snake got the better of me. I was escorting a group of 7-year-olds on a nature walk and stopped to pick up the very young garter snake. Wouldn’t you know it–the snake bit the cuticle of my little finger and drew blood!

    1. LOL! You’re a man after my own heart, Scott. Whether it’s a snake or a scorpion or a spider or whatever, I’m of the same mind: I like to get my hands on them and show them off because my inner child knows damn well that the experience will cause much discomfort in others. (If I’m by myself, I generally leave them alone, which just proves I’m being mischievous.)

  6. beautiful snake, beautiful photo, Jason! I love these snakes. There are a bunch of them on the lake at my parent’s house. I saw a big ol’ cluster of about 15 of them together one breeding season. Really cool!I know so many people with the snake fear and I’ve never ever understood it. (well, okay, fer-de-lance and mambas and some others, I understand that fear) I think they are beautiful animals and don’t get the respect they deserve..So for some ridiculous reason I always wanted to get bit by a rattlesnake just to say I had been and to see what it felt like. I don’t still really want this to happen but I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t. Anyway, i love your photo!

    1. Thanks, Jill! The amber eyes and earthen tones of these snakes has always endeared them to me.

      And I envy you seeing the big cluster of them. I’ve yet to see a sight like that. What an experience that would be!

      You know, I’ve never been bitten by a snake or a spider, though I’ve had more than my share of scorpion stings and I’ve had to use a screwdriver to get a snapping turtle off my finger. I’m equally surprised that I’ve somehow missed out on the snake experience–and admittedly I feel like I’m missing out on some part of my naturalist’s badge of honor by not having a snake bite story. Not that I’ll be heading out to provoke a bite, but still…

  7. Though I can offer nothing remotely resembling scientific proof, I can’t help but believe there is something beyond cultural myths and erroneous human beliefs behind an irrational fear of snakes (spiders, too). My wife has nothing more than a rational respect for all other critters, but is phobic about snakes. She wants nothing to do with snakes, doesn’t even want to look at photos of them. She has gotten a wee bit better about dealing with snakes over the years. She will hold her ground and let a snake cross the trail ahead of her instead of beating a hasty retreat. She can even identify the more common snakes in our area, but knowing a particular snake is harmless has little effect on her fear.

    I once walked into her studio and found her standing on the seat of her potter’s wheel telling a garter snake that she knew it was harmless but wished it would leave immediately so she could return to throwing pots. Not laughing while I returned the snake outdoors was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

    1. That’s hysterical, Marvin! And you’re a stronger man than I. There’s no doubt I would have been rolling in uproarious laughter. I’m sure I would have been sleeping on the couch for quite some time afterward.

  8. Were it not for my own fear of needles, I wouldn’t be able to understand the fear my wife has of snakes. She shivers and has to look away just seeing one on TV. Doesn’t matter what breed, how large or small or if it’s poisonous or not… She can’t take the very sight of them. Last year, she happened across a couple tiny ones in the pool baskets. It was quite entertaining to put it mildly. =)
    Foolish really.
    Except….
    I have the exact same fear of needles. I can’t watch them on TV, I get sick at the mere THOUGHT of having to goto the doctor if I think there’s going to be a shot involved. Flu shots? No thanks. Take my blood for testing? You better be ready to leap out from behind a dark corner in a cape and fangs. Otherwise, my blood is just fine in the container it’s in!!

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