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Snakes have social skills?

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  • Snakes have social skills?

    For those it may interest, I'd like to share a bit of what is on the ASP (Advocates for Snake Preservation) website- We are Advocates for Snake Preservation - Advocates for Snake Preservation

    If you click on the 'blog' and then on the World Snake Day 2015, you'll find this & others: Removing the blinders | SocialSnakes in which they share their close & patient
    observations of wild rattlesnake behaviors, and draw some interesting conclusions...namely that they exhibit some social behaviors that scientists (including Klauber) have for many years denied.
    From my decades of living closely with, handling & observing my own snakes (including many rattlesnakes) I've always felt strongly that they understand far more than most give them credit for.
    What else could explain that they learn to recognize us as 'friendly' (ie. harmless associates) & remain tame? So if the ASP observations are indeed evidence of their innate social behaviors toward
    their own species, that may explain why many snakes also seem able to relate to us as well. Just some food for thought...

  • #2
    Re: Snakes have social skills?

    Awesome, the more conservation and preservation the better!

    Photo credit:Eddie Ard .....Banner Credit:Big PaPa Ernest


    • #3
      Re: Snakes have social skills?

      My snakes and iguanas know me and I think it is a mixture of sight and smell, the memory of a familiar and harmless human.

      I had some visitors the other day and one was a very colourful fellow (literally, a rasta guy with red green and gold shirt and tam over his copious dreadlocks!). When I introduced him gently to my iguanas, they were not in the least amused. I explained to him that they do not like red (unless it is in their food!) or headgear of any kind including hats, caps, tams and hair curlers. Especially RED ones! This I have definitely observed over many years of keeping them. I cannot approach my iguanas in hair curlers or red clothes either.

      As for my boa's "social" attitude, he has always been just fine with me, never even giving me the "S". But when my new rasta friend leaned to look into the enclosure, my friendly boa gave a nice big HISS and did a perfect and extreme "S" curl. So much for my saying that he was a sweet little guy (the snake).

      So, I am all for the idea or theory that familiarity means something all right. Other things we may think we can observe about their reactions to us, well, I have a feeling that our minds can do wonders for our happiness and satisfaction.


      • #4
        Re: Snakes have social skills?

        My first boa Victor definitely recognized me. He would always smell my mouth when I took him out... If I wasn't the one handling him, or if I wasn't nearby he was really squirmy and unsettled. Everyone noticed it.


        • #5
          Re: Snakes have social skills?

          I found the videos (& concurrent explanations) done by ASP of the wild female rattlesnake who first looks out both ways, and later appears to gather her young to keep them safe to be quite interesting...we've always
          been told that snakes survive with no parental involvement (other than nest guarding by king cobras) so I'm very happy that to see some new thinking & better observations being done, AND by those who are also
          science-based. As they said, there is more than one way to be biased...the anti-anthropomorphism camp has ruled long enough, maybe they weren't correct after all? Refusing to "see" what's in front of us is also bias,
          and snakes need all the understanding we can manage if they're to be allowed to co-exist with us & survive.


          • #6
            Re: Snakes have social skills?

            Eh, I don't really buy it. I've observed boas extensively with an analytical point of view, and I've never seen any behavior from them that couldn't be explained by either simple instinct or at best basic conditioning. They respond to stimuli in a very predictable way. It's clear to me that they don't yearn for social interactions and are unable to come up with creative solutions to basic problems. I've never interacted with rattlers, so they may be the exception to the rule, but I would need more than the linked blog posts to convince me.

            With these simple tools we managed to document behavior that was once so easily dimissed. How? We were looking for it.
            This sounds like simple confirmation bias to me. I really don't mean to sounds so dismissive, but if you're so hung up on disputing anthropodenial, I think it's easy to fall into the trap that led you there in the first place, which is anthropomorphism. Mothers protecting their young is far from social behavior, it's deeply rooted survival instinct, which is evident in fish and insects and countless higher species.


            • #7
              Re: Snakes have social skills?

              "It's clear to me that they don't yearn for social interactions and are unable to come up with creative solutions to basic problems."

              And snakes are not able to find away to escape their cages? Basic problem solving skill.


              • #8
                Re: Snakes have social skills?

                The ability to escape confinement is just another basic survival skill shown by almost all animals, including insects---even aquatic snails will escape their aquarium if the little hole where the filter tube goes in is not carefully covered....I would not say the snail is showing basic problem solving ability, I would say it's showing a basic instinct to manipulate its environment.

                As far as snakes recognizing individuals---I don't buy that either...since they are a completely asocial species they have no need to recognize individuals, of their own species or any other....One of the most basic survival skills, shared by almost all animals, is the ability to recognize what poses a danger and what doesn't and can therefore safely be ignored. I believe snakes can "learn" that a particular style of handling is not a threat---if you hand that "tame" snake to another person their handling style is going to be at least slightly different--it may be as subtle as a differences in degrees of body tension or skin temperature...this different experience for the snake may cause it to feel unsafe and react accordingly...

                I enjoy my snakes for what they are---gorgeous, beautifully adapted pieces of nature that I'm lucky enough to share my life with...I don't believe they "like" me or have any desire whatsoever to interact with me...But that's just my opinion


                • #9
                  Re: Snakes have social skills?

                  As I said at the beginning, I posted these links for 'those it may interest'...I get the feeling from some replies that we're on a different page (ie. opinions given without even looking at ASP website?) but that's ok,
                  we're not going to prove this one way or another here. It's food for thought...

                  But I'll add that malcularius & I just attended a "Wildlife Expo" at our local fairgrounds with 2 + 3 snakes & had a blast with our non-stop "snake meet & greet" for 4.5 hours. Our snakes were very well-received...better
                  than I'd have imagined...& for their part, they were extremely good sports about all the touching & gentle handling (closely supervised) by so many strangers, both children & adults. One person asked me how I could be
                  sure they wouldn't bite, and that's a fair question, since anything with teeth & a mouth that opens could conceivably bite, but I've kept countless snakes for about 30 years now, & I've been doing programs with them
                  for nearly that long...and never in all that time has ANY snake of mine ever bitten anyone, or even tried. Of course, I do have two snakes that I wouldn't take to such events, but that's only my nervous Korean rat snakes,
                  & also my really old snakes- but certainly NOT because they'd be feisty. It seems to me that for most snakes, once they learn to associate calmly with me, that has a huge carryover effect with all other humans they meet.

                  A few times one of my snakes seemed to want to come back to me..."familiar territory"? I do know that many people of all ages feel a whole lot better about snakes now, many having touched them for the first time, and
                  many who came back multiple times with a look of fascination for what they were experiencing. We put the 'wild' in their "Wildlife Expo", a very positive experience for all. FYI, she took a half-grown Colombian boa & a BP,
                  while I took a large adult yellow rat snake, a rosy boa & a corn snake. Isn't learning to associate calmly with other creatures a bit of a social skill? To me, it matter whether you're a snake or a person.