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Dave's Commentary

September 21, 2000

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“Lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!”  Substitute that with “rattlers, copperheads, and cottonmouths and I can’t help but chuckle.  I especially am amazed at the general misunderstanding of ‘snake proofing’.

A story then some discussion…

Recently my friend Scott stopped in on his way to a dove hunt.  With him, was his friend who had brought his seasoned Vizsla gun dog.  After exchanging pleasantries and talking about the current dove hunting situation, they began to tell me about the dogs’ recent snakebite.

Apparently the dog was curious about the rattlesnake, proceeded to investigate, and was bitten, right there in front of his owner.  After an expensive trip to the Veterinarian the Vizsla recovered with only a slight scar to show for it all.

What makes this story interesting and unbelievable is that the dog had been taken to a ‘snake proofer’.  Now I didn’t say that the dog investigated a snake while hunting, did I?  That’s right, the snakebite the dog suffered was from a “defanged snake” at the hands of a snake proofer!  The snake bit him right next to an eye.   The snake was allegedly defanged according to the trainer.

Well it all ended well as the trainer accepted responsibility for the injury and paid the vet bill.  The dog healed well and is now most definitely snake proofed!

Now for some discussion about snake proofing.

NUMBER ONE MISCONCEPTION is the image projected by the words ‘snake proofing’.  It is impossible to entirely snake proof a dog, in that it implies the dog can’t be bit…WRONG.

A dog that is snake proofed (I like to say ‘Snake Trained’) is simply taught to avoid the smell of snakes and if trained thoroughly, will avoid the site and sound (rattles) of snakes.  This does not mean your dog won’t be bitten.

Example:  Let’s say you are hunting and your gun dog is quartering nicely into the wind.  It’s a given that when he turns and runs perpendicular to the wind that he is crossing the wind and thus it blowing across his face, not into it.  As he runs across in front of you, he could step on a snake that he never had a chance to smell and WHAM, he’s bitten!

My favorite statement about snake training is that it (the training) simply takes the curiosity out of the dog…period!

NUMBER TWO MISCONCEPTION:  Snakes will automatically bite dogs.

Wrong.  Snakes would like to avoid the dogs as much as vice versa.  When they feel cornered and threatened, they try to defend themselves.  Venomous snakes are actually a positive factor in our eco-system.  They keep vermin numbers under control.  Please don’t consider me one of these ‘green eco-huggers’, I just think that sometimes we tend to overreact.

I’ve had several instances here in Texas where I should have been bitten by either a rattlesnake or a copperhead.  I was never bitten because I suppose they didn’t feel I was a threat.  On each occasion the snakes retreated.  If, however, they would have felt cornered/threatened, I’m sure they would have bitten me.

Once, I stepped right on top of the snake, just behind it’s head without knowing.  Something inside told me to look down.  There he was, coiled nicely and unaffected by my foot being on top of him – he never rattled.  After blurting out something not to be said in public, I jumped back off the snake and he just lay there for a second, then politely slithered away.

Another time, I was picking up firewood.  My all knowing, sooth-saying pillar of knowledge Dad assured me that there were no snakes in the area and not to worry.  WRONG, I picked up a piece of firewood and looking me right in my face, not 2 feet away was a nice rattler.  He too ignored me and I suppose, felt unthreatened.  Of course my Dad is from the old school and quickly dispatched with the snake and proclaimed “That’s the only one I’ve ever seen around here and I’ll bet ya it’s the last”…R-I-I-I-GHT I thought to myself.  I’ve had similar near accidents with copperheads.  I figure I’ve used up all my ‘free parking’ tokens and am next on the bitten list though I try hard to avoid putting myself in ‘snaky’ predicaments.

Snaky Predicaments include walking in cover that you can’t see the ground in front of you (without snake proof gear), walking around at night without a flash light, hunting with a dog that has not had the curiosity taken out of him (snake training), timber falls, and rocky terrain that has a lot of crevices/caves, etc. 

Never step over a rock, limb, or log that is big enough to conceal a snake.  I’ve heard many snakebites are on the back of the leg from stepping over such cover.

So, I guess I’m saying that you should snake train your dogs (make dang sure the snake can’t really bite!), wear snake proof protective wear, and leave ‘em alone otherwise.

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