Rotarians get snake lessons

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, August 15, 2012

If it’s true that little boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, that kind of got by some of the big boy members of the Brundidge Rotary Club.

There was a lot of “necessary” scraping back of chairs and movement toward the back of the room when Chip Wallace, introduced his guests, who are members of the Pike County Reptile Association.

Tanner Stainbrook, along with other “like-minded” Troy University students founded the association in 2010. Since that time, members of the Pike County Reptile Association have been raising awareness of the reptile population by making public presentations throughout the area.

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The Pike County Reptile Association has participated in the Peanut Butter Festival and the SpringFest in Brundidge.

All eyes were on Stainbrook throughout the presentation, possibly because a snake was his constant companion, crawling up his arm, across his chest, swinging from his elbow and curling around arm like a bracelet.

Stainbrook told the Rotarians that there are four classifications of snakes – the common ones like, rat snakes and corn snakes; elapids that have front, fixed fangs; pit vipers, the venomous ones; and constrictors, including pythons and boas.

“A venomous snake is one that injects venom into your body,” Stainbrook said.

“Not a poisonous snake. Ivy is poison. It gets on your skin and makes it itch. There is a difference.”

Stainbrook brought several snakes for the Rotarians to “enjoy.”

“The corn snake is not a venomous snake,” he said. “They are mild snakes and, although they may be found in corn fields at times, that’s not why they are called corn snakes. They are called corn snakes because their belly looks like maize or Indian corn.”

Stainbrook said that it’s a misconception that snakes smell with their tongues.

He said that, when the snake’s tongue is flicked out, receptors on the tongue pick up participles that are perceived as scent.

“When the tongue is retracted, the tips of the tongue fit into the Jacobson’s organ and send the chemical information that has been gathered through the organ and to the brain.”

There the information is processed so that the snake can react.

Stainbrook said that snakes have different personalities. While some pet snakes are docile, others like the Texas rat snake can have nasty attitudes.

“You don’t want to mess with a Texas rat,” he said.

From the reaction of the Rotarians, they didn’t seem anxious to mess with any snakes.

Stainbrook assured the Rotarians that snakes are not coming after them.

“They want to get away from you,” he said. “The only defenses they have are to their warning mechanism, their speed and their bite.

“But only one in three venomous snakes inject venom,” he said. “A big snake is less likely to inject all of its venom than a small snake. A big snake has other uses for its venom, like hunting food. It’s not likely to inject all of its venom to get you to leave it alone. Especially if it has just eaten because it’s probably used most of its venom.”

A small snake has not figured out how to reserve its venom and is likely to “dump every ounce on you,” Stainbrook said.

He cautioned the Rotarians not to use a tourniquet on a snakebite because of the potential of losing the limb due to the restriction of blood and the buildup of venom.

“Stay calm and get to the emergency room as soon as possible,” he said.

“That’s your best chance.”

Stainbrook invited the Rotarians to attend a meeting of the Pike County Reptile Association and offered the association’s assistance in relocating any snakes found on their properties.