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Farewell to Bill Haast

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July 01, 2011

Farewell to Bill Haast

By David E. Petzal

by David E. Petzal

As readers of this blog know, I am no friend of our fanged friends; I believe their proper place is under the wheels of a pickup or on the receiving end of a bullet or charge of shot. But Bill Haast, who died on June 15 at the age of 100, did not agree. Mr. Haast was the foremost venom milker in the history of the profession, and he received 172 bites from all manner of lethal serpents over the course of his lifetime, some of which nearly killed him.


I went to see him at work in 1970 at his serpentarium near Punta Gorda, Florida. He did the milking right in front of his audience, on a concrete podium, with nothing between the serpents and the audience. The first two reptiles were Russell’s vipers, which kill lots of people in India and are about 4 feet long. He milked them in classic fashion, getting them to bite down on a piece of latex stretched over a test tube. Then he pressed on their venom glands and a trickle of amber death ran down the side of the tube.

Next on the menu was a cobra; I forget which variety, but there was a lot of it. Haast kept it in wicker basket and when he took the lid off, the thing reared up out of the basket, looked around, and said: “Hello. I will be your cobra today. Who do I get to kill?”

With his left hand, Haast slapped the serpent in the back of its head. When the serpent whirled around, Haast grabbed it behind the head with his right and hauled it out of the basket, all 8 feet of it, or whatever there was. He then coiled it around his right arm, got it into milking position, and what I remember is, the venom filled up the tube like it came from a water tap. It did not trickle; it poured like beer vomit at a fraternity party.

I left. Quickly.

Mr. Haast had a lot of courage, and saved who knows how many thousand lives. And no matter what you think of snakes, you have to admire him.

Comments (80)

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

The only good snake is a dead snake. They have been causing problems since the Garden.

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from MJC wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

172 bites and he still lived to age 100. You're a tougher man than I am, Mr. Bill Haast.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jason Hart wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

WAM I agree with you and Mr. Petzal on the status of serpents. However I have much respect for those who do the work of Mr. Haast, I just know that they are more of a man than I am and I am ok with that.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RipperIII wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I don't run screaming through brush at the sight of snakes, in fact I like to see them...at a safe distance, but neither am I the guy to catch the venomous type for any reason.
I have a friend down in the black belt of Alabama who routinely cruises the swamps catching cotton mouths, copperheads and rattlers for the purpose of milking, armed with only a potato rake...he gets $50.00 per snake.
My hat is off to those brave souls, and what a great service Mr. Haast and those like him do for us.

+8 Good Comment? | | Report
from fishdog52 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Never learned to love snakes, but kids & grandkids have forced me to "man up" and handle them from time to time. Don't kill many except for the occasional water snake. Killed 7 out the pond one day last summer, then read the new game regulations for the upcoming season. NY now protects all water snakes......didn't see that coming. Our legislature apparently felt some sort of kinship with them.

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from Anhinga wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I'm not a poisonous snake 'lover/grabber', but I do enjoy seeing the non-poisonous types around my place. I live in Texas where we have rattlers, all the other pit vipers, and the coral snake, which Haast is shown milking. Snakes play an integral role in the 'balance of nature' and all outdoors folks should recognize their part of the equation. Avoid and/or 'remove' the poisonous ones and 'nurture' the non-poisonous rodent, and snake-eaters (king snakes, rat snakes and racers especially); they provide outstanding, natural vermin control.

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from MATroutslayer wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Check out my post "afraid of snakes?" in the campfire section of the message boards. I just don't get it. I know so many people who are afraid these mostly harmless creatures, who kill them out of fear, with the "only good snake is a dead snake" mentality. How many times have you been bitten, or at the very least, inconvenienced by these docile creatures??? I have worked with timber rattlers for almost a decade, never been bitten. They do no harm, check the stats on deaths caused by bees, or bears, or sharks, or autos, falls, trains, planes, pick something.
Bill Haast, you will always be admired. Thanks to your influence and teachings, you have saved the lives of so many serpents that would have been killed for no better reason than misconceptions and fear.
Pick one up (non-venomous, of course), feel it's muscles, feel it's softness, look into it's ancient eyes. You might find they aren't so scary after all.

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from sgaredneck wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

From all my stomping around in South GA, I have gained a healthy respect for anything that slithered and had fangs. Especially the venomous ones we have down here. My Granddaddy, a turpentine & timber man, constantly preached to me about watching where I walked, especially when we were on a sand ridge or in a swampy spot. Over the years I have been struck at and bumped more times than I want to think about even when I thought I was doing an OK job trying to watch my step.

I even had the displeasure of being taken to a snake handling church service once as a youngster. Pardon my saying so, but if your particular belief involves tempting being bit by a snake to prove your faith, you are f****** stupid, and you deserve your eventual fate.

All that said, I echo most of the sentiment that they are necessary parts of the ecosystem, and they have purpose. Just not near me or the dawgs if you please.

Hats off to Mr. Haast for his work and dedication to something I'm quite sure I couldn't do.

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from RJ Arena wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I have never been afraid of snakes. I do respect and give distance to the more deadly critters, but they are a benefit to our community, considering all of the mice and rats(I really hate these guys) that they eat. I have had on occasion killed a few rattlers and cotton mouths that did not respect my distance, and I am very glad there are those who are brave and foolish enough to "milk" these snakes so we can have anti-venom drugs available for the rest of us.Mr. Haast, rest in peace, I thank you.

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from auburn_hunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

@sga I couldn't have said it better myself. I'm just one state west of you and though I live in Suburbia, we do have a decent sized lot in a neighborhood with an 18-acre lake. I'd say we average 1-2 snakes per year in the yard of all varieties, but they all end up of the same variety - DEAD. As WAM pointed out, they are Satan's handpuppets and need not venture into my yard.

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from RJ Arena wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I know a lot of fellow outdoors-men hate snakes, but I have to admire them as the great hunters that they are. A pit viper is an amazing hunter, able to detect in total darkness the exact location of its' prey by using heat sensors, able to detect a change in temp. within 1/2 of a degree at 50 feet, that is awesome. Don't get me wrong, I do not want one as a pet, but I have plenty of respect!

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from sgaredneck wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

auburn_hunter,

LMAO

I'm gonna have to borrow your "Satan's handpuppet" line there, my man....

S GA

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I am firmly among those who admire and enjoy all wild things and that includes snakes; all of them. I have had a great deal of experience with Timber Rattlers here in the northeast and know that all they want to do is avoid human beings and will go to great lengths to do so and must provoked into striking. I have no sympathy for anyone who kills snakes out of irrational fear and ignorance, especially harmless ones, and those are in the vast majority. I am sick of the macho attitude of many so-called "sportsmen" toward things they do not understand and know little about, and I say this as one who has more hunting and fishing experience than at least 99 out of 1000 of the snake haters. You will kill one in my presence at risk to your health.

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from 007 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

We catch blacksnakes alive and put them in our outbuildings to keep the mice down and the little garter snakes, ringnecks, etc, get picked up and pitched out of the yard or away from the house. Anything with venom gets a load of shot.

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from Tom-Tom wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

At a family gathering here on the farm, my seven year old niece caught a big corn snake and brought it to the picnic table to show the "grown-ups". Twenty-five years later her granny still gets the vapors when reminded of that 4th of July. To Mr. Haast, you dedicated your life to making things better for your fellow humans and I appreciate and applaud your efforts.

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from ekonerding wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I was a kid in southern FL in the early 60s and we often went to the Serpentarium. Favorite memory: a big rattlesnake slithered free from the sack a local guy had brought it in, and briefly headed toward my stepfather before he was pinned down (the snake, that is)! My young niece had a live non-venomous snake "necklace" draped around her neck, and she was totally calm and smiling. Gotta look for those old photos.

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from mike55 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Wonder if Mr. Haast is immune to the venom now that he's been bitten so many times? Didn't seem to shorten his lifespan. Have a friend that has a bad case of MS, he used to bring live bees with him when visiting, give him self a couple of bee stings each day. He said it helped. I'm in the "better dead" camp when it comes to our slithery friends. I won't touch 'em. Took my young daughter to an animal fair and she picked up a pretty big snake, don't remember what variety it was. Probably to young to know any better. Now as an adult,if she sees a little spider she about runs out of the house screaming!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bill4432 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

i sympathize with those of us who kill all snakes on sight, but snakes play their part in the whole, just like any other critter. aldo leopold said that the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. if we hunt or simply kill certain species into extinction, it affects the whole system.

my mother, who has rats around the house because she refuses to take down or move the bird feeder right outside the kitchen window, called me in a panic the other day. "I just saw a huge snake by the back porch. What should I do?" She described the thing as 6 ft. long,all black, with a white belly. clearly a black rat snake drawn to the pests. i told her to make it welcome. it's a whole lot cheaper than the orkin man, probably just as efficient, and doesn't pollute the soil.

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from RipperIII wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I do not understand those who "kill all snakes on sight".
I'm pretty much a city boy, but I spent almost 45 minutes untangling a king snake from some bird netting I had covering my blueberry bushes, then the son of a gun went right back into the netting, I got him back out, he never attempted to bite me, but he did let out a noxious odor a time or two.
Found out a neighbor killed the snake a few days later...as it was swallowing a rat.
just don't understand it at all.

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from TDC wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Mr. Haast, my hats off to you sir. Although I do not care for anything that has no legs and can more faster than me, you sir have bigger cajones than I ever will.

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from Bellringer wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To all of you that kill rattlesnakes, what do you do with them then?

Do you follow the sportsmans creed and eat them?

I have cooked rattlesnake several times, they cook up real good just like frying fish.

Also the skins make attractive mounts and hatbands.

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from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

from tom warner wrote 3 hours 48 min ago

I am firmly among those who admire and enjoy all wild things and that includes snakes; all of them. I have had a great deal of experience with Timber Rattlers here in the northeast and know that all they want to do is avoid human beings and will go to great lengths to do so and must provoked into striking. I have no sympathy for anyone who kills snakes out of irrational fear and ignorance, especially harmless ones, and those are in the vast majority. I am sick of the macho attitude of many so-called "sportsmen" toward things they do not understand and know little about, and I say this as one who has more hunting and fishing experience than at least 99 out of 1000 of the snake haters. You will kill one in my presence at risk to your health.
*******************************************************
There will most likely be a risk to YOUR health from most of these guys if you try.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MATroutslayer wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Two men were prosecuted in MA from NH trying to catch two tagged timber rattlers and kill them. They both got fined $2,500 apiece. They were poaching. I always read posts on here that start off spouting about poachers and trespassers and other scum, right from the very mouths of the same guys that are killing snakes... Good argument guys. If it's got antlers, horns, hooves or beards you'd be in an uproar. There would be a chain gang of pitchfork-wielding guys knocking at the poachers door. If I wasn't a law-abiding citizen with a conscience, I'd have put bullets in those two schmucks. Leave the snakes be. If you must kill them, at least eat them. To each his own, I don't wanna sound like an activist, I eat what I kill. I don't kill mice or rats cuz I don't have to. My snakes take care of that.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

On one of our search and destroy missions, I literally straddled a western diamondback and pissed it was. Had three options, jump, shoot it with my 22-250 or use my 44 mag. If I jumped it would be faster than I can jump, if I shot it with my rifle, I risked shrapnel or I can fall straight back and at 45 degree shoot it with my 44 mag and hope for the rest. I chose my 44 and as the dust swirled around me laying on my back, my hunting buddies yelled if I was ok? Talk about getting my boots and pants ripped off me, I lucked out. For the rattler, it wasn't so lucky, caught the 155 grain Keith cast just behind the head and two other places mid section of it's coiled body.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Prayers to Mr.Haast's family; He seemed to live a full life at 100! As for a sever distain for snakes; I do agree to an extent with MA Troutslayer's comment. I do not like snakes, as such; but they do fill an important role in the food chain. If I had a NEED to defend myself from getting bit by by one; I would stop it/and or kill it. When I see them on there; I leave them be.
Just my thoughts...

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

ps-"When I see them on their own, I leave them be"

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from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To Mike 55: For some time before his death, Haast was in fact immune to most kinds of venom, and on more than one occasion traveled thousands of miles to give his blood directly to a snakebite victim. He was indeed one of the good guys.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I see mostly "city boys" or those from parts that have few if any vipers lauding the eco-benefits of snakes. I don't kill the garter snakes I see around my place and we have few if any poisonous snakes where I live. I hate all manner of cotton mouthed rattle-moccasins and dispatched them on sight back in the day.

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To moshie: Well, I'm not quite certain what you mean, but if "most of these guys", whoever "they" are, knew me you would not say that. Actually I HAVE had one confrontation and the would-be macho-man apologized and backed off. Killing a snake is about as easy as killing a song bird and makes about as much sense. I hate situations like that! To MAtroutslayer: Right on my friend! I could not agree with you more. There have been some pretty severe fines levied here in NY on Timber Rattler killers, and they are beginning to understand that snakes are just a part of nature that they claim to love so much.

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from country road wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Back in the Fifties and early Sixties, my dad encouraged rat snakes of all varieties to make their headquarters in our old hunting cabin in the woods, as 007 said, to keep the rats and mice down. I remember many times when we'd go to visit the camp and find a rat snake comfortably coiled up in the kitchen. Dad would use a broom to sweep it gently out the door. The same treatment did not apply to pit vipers, and they always wound up dead wherever they were found, whether from a vehicle tire, firearm or stout stick. Nowadays, I tend to let the rattlers go unless they are wanting to take up residence near where I'm living or working. Cottonmouths are killed at any opportunity---with extreme prejudice.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Since you are in the wilds of New York, you'll probably never have the opportunity to show your love of snakes or your ability to take care of an irresponsible snake killer. LMAO, there tough guy. That is all I have to say about that.

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from Carney wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Dave Petzal: Thanks for bringing Bill Haast to our attention and honoring him for his work and contributions. Condolences to his family and friends.

Having grown up in WV, dealing with copperheads on a regular basis, being cautious always in the woods and having one eye open for snake trouble at all times, I now have the marvelous privilege of abandoning caution for snakes as there are no poisonous varieties where I live on the west side of the Cascade Range! It is a blessing.

Not too far south of aforementioned Punta Gorda, as a 6 year old boy I "helped" my uncle kill a rattle snake. At the dinner table, my cousin told of stopping at the beach to fish on his way home from work. The conversation between him and his parents went something like this:
"Oh. Did you catch anything?"
"No fish. But I did catch a rattler."
"A rattler?!?!?!"
"Yeah. It was a small one in the bushes beside where I was fishing."
"Well what did you do with it?!?!"
"I caught it."
"Well where did you put it?!?!"
"It's in the trunk of the car."
"WHAT?!?!?!"
"Don't worry. It's not loose; I put it in my tackle box."

A few choice words with stern warnings and commands followed from my Uncle Bill then he slammed around the kitchen headed for the garage to find a shovel. My mother protested the killing but those who "tamed" the gulf coast swamps don't care much for compassionate sentimentalism directed towards potentially lethal wildlife. And at my uncle's say so I got to go and be a part of "the deed".

It was not a senseless killing, even though it was precipitated by the senseless act of my cousin.

All things considered that cousin turned out pretty well even though he was perhaps in his mid 30's before he quit doing stupid and dangerous things. It was something about having to make a deal with an alligator that cured him of itiotic behaviors...

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Well, actually WA Mthunter, I have seen, photographed and captured many hundreds of rattlers, among many other venomous and harmless snakes all over north & south America, and have been a amateur herpetologist all of my very long life, so I can safely say that I know more than most about snakes. That along with hunting & fishing just about everywhere that you can think of. If you want to get in an argument about anything, just mention "snakes", and your off to the races! I cannot think of anything that has more emotion and ignorance attached to it than that subject and I feel pretty damn strongly about it and see no reason why I should tolerate ignorant destruction. Oh, and by the way, NY has more truly wilderness country (the Adirondacks)than any state east of the Mississippi, just in case you did not know. I have spent much of my life in it. And no, I am not a tough guy, but can be if I get sufficiently pissed-off. Jeez, I shouldn't have gotten into this!

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from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Good for Mr. Haast, I hope he turned the venom into medicine for bite victims.
I like snakes, just not the poisonous ones. Around here the cottonmouth and in deep woods, the timber rattler are the baddest, the copper head is bad but generally not deadly. Non-venomous, let them go to eat mice. The bad boys slithering across the road should be treated as such; as your tires approach the devil slam on your brakes and let your tires do the deed and smear them to hell. jmo

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from coydogger wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I'm going to plead the 5th on the snake issue. But to educate the misinformed, NY encompasses more than the big apple. Go a few hundred miles north and test your true survival skills in the Adirondak Park. A rugged wilderness area larger than Yellowstone,Glacier, Grand Canyon,Great Smokies,and Yellowstone COMBINED! Also containing over 2,000 lakes and ponds.

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from shane wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I wonder how well the tough guys from tough guy land would do if dropped off in the Adirondack park in January?

Question for the snake haters -- can we refer to you as Rat Huggers?

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

tom warner

I respect your position on snakes. Love 'em or leave 'em. It's just best not to make threats to folks health from the cover of your computer.

shane,

We always expect a comment such as above from you.

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from shane wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, says the rat.

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

WA Mthunter: It was not a threat, but a heartfelt expression of what I might do to defend a helpless thing that felt strongly about. I am sure that you would do the same for anything that you love as would many others of us.
Shane: I've spent many a day in the Adirondacks in January. It's a lot safer than many other places that I can think of, such as almost any big city.
Haast will be missed. He was the last of the great snake showmen, much like Ross Allen was.

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from Ricardo Rodríguez wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Farewell indeed. The man really had a pair and saved thousands of lives. Went to see him when just a child I don´t remember how many years ago. God bless him.

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from MReeder wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Great story about Mr. Haast. Being from rural Texas, I've watched a lot of guys do similar things at rattlesnake roundups and it always gives me the creeps, even though I've kept snakes and other reptiles for pets.
As much as I know that they have their place in the scheme of things, though, I never come across a rattler that I don't kill unless the place I'm hunting has a rule against it. I'll think about letting it go, but then I always wonder whether that might end up being the snake that bites somebody's kid or bird dog, and I de-head it with whatever load I happen to be carrying. Actually had one big rattler that I stepped on get aggressive with me once. He had every chance to escape but he just kept coming. I was deer hunting with a scoped .270, and trying to get crosshairs steady as you're backing away from a magnified, moving rattlesnake head that's coming straight at you was an adventure I wouldn't care to repeat. It felt like being charged by Godzilla. That was the biggest rattler I've ever personally killed -- about 65 inches long and as big around as your upper arm -- and he's the only one out of the dozens I'm come across that ever acted like that. Guess he didn't like getting his tail stepped on.

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from z41 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I guess I really missed it, how does he figure into the equation of guns and shooting?

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from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To Z41: A fair question, and there are several answers.

1. This blog is, in large part, about hunting, and most people who hunt will sooner or later come into contact with Mr. No Shoulders. And there are few more attention-getting things in the world than a poison serpent in your immediate vicinity.

2. Since its beginning, this blog has gone into some very odd subjects. It's a big world out there, and a diet of nothing but guns and ballistics can get a little stale sometimes.

3. This blog attracts some very odd people, which is fine because odd people are more interesting than the other kind. To quote a great line from a long-forgotten movie entitled David and Lisa, "If you're normal, who the hell wants to be normal?"

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from Zermoid wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Snakes are in the "shoot first, ask questions later" category for me. once it's dead then I MIGHT try to figure out what kind it was.

Biggest snake I have ever seen was a rattler back in NJ who was almost as long as the 2 lane road he was trying to cross was wide. I say 'trying' because he got run over by all 4 wheels of a passing car, don't imagine he lived very long after that altho he did make it across the road under his own power.

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from fortycal wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

We certainly all owe Mr. Haast a great debt. I, however had no idea there were snakes left anywhere in the wild. I thought we had elected them all to public service.

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Right on David! As one of your many "odd" readers out here, I truly appreciate the eclectic flavor of your blog. And yes, just guns and ammo can get pretty boring. As one who has had vastly more experience than most with venomous snakes, I must say that I have never been attacked by any of our native poisonous snakes or even seriously threatened. Their philosophy is "leave me the hell alone please". I have long lost count of the snakes I have interacted with. It IS best not to step on one however! They tend to resent that. Some of the Asian and African species can be in another category altogether. I am among the many who view snakes as just another part of our great outdoors that add zest to our lives. Sort of like wolves, which I would not like to do without either.

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from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Just to be clear, I do not mind NON poisonous snakes in my immediate area, but I will destroy any snake that can kill me, may pets or family if they are in a threat mode. Which means close enough to strike and prepared to do so. If I can back away or walk around them I generally will.

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from demory11 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Bill Haast could well be one of the last venom milkers if things do not change. It seems the venom and poison control centers of our country have decided not to continue to replenish the venom antidote vaccines which, at some point, will leave many snakebite victims basically on their own. If you think this is a bad idea then raise hell with your elected officials and put some heat where they can't ignore it.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Those in the south whom have been hit by a Cottonmouth say Mosquitoes don't even land and ticks don't bite. I'll stick to my Cutters and forgo the bite!

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Mr. Warner, You mentioned the late Ross Allen. Did you know there are no venomous snakes at the old Ross Allen facility at Silver Springs, Fla? Seems that the gent that took over after Mr. Allen was bitten by a large Diamondback and did not survive. After that they got rid of all but non-poisonous snakes.

Dave, Funny you mentioned snakes. Yesterday a pal at my job related how his son was mowing grass recently at a local shooting preserve North of KCMO that I have patronized. A large Timber rattler struck the boy on his leg. The teen was wearing those hideous oversized baggy jeans that are popular these days and the rattler only got denim. My friend said you could clearly see two fang holes wet with venom in the fabrick. The kid was scared sh-tless and won't mow for the shooting preserve anymore. The snake didn't make it.

Growing up in Central Florida I had my share of close calls with Diamondbacks, Cottonmouth Moccasins and large Coral snakes like the one in the above photo. Other than some my dad and brother caught live to sell all got a charge of shot or bullet. Over the years we lost several very highly prized hounds to snakes. There are plenty of other critters that eat rats and don't kill dogs. If a rattler hits your dog get him to a vet asap. Snake venom will likely make a male dog sterile if he survives (happened to one of my dad's best hounds). My all time favorite dog, a big walker hound named Slim was killed by a huge Diamondback that struck him in the side of his head. I found Slim barely alive with his head badly swollen to the size of a football. One fang went thru his left ear the other just behind the left eye. Snake lovers please understand this is why my friends and I have no love for deadly serpents.

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Forgot to mention a large Coral snake like the one above bit my older brothers German Sheperd guard dog on his nose when the dog sniffed the snake. Dog died shortly after getting to the vet's office.

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from 99explorer wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I have a friend in Texas who has lost valuable livestock to rattlesnakes while grazing with their heads down in the grass. As Dell described above, their heads were swollen to the size of a football, and none survived.

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Del in KS: Thanks. Interesting comment. When Allen died at age 73 back in I think the late 80's, I thought that his old place was turned into a alligator attraction and then closed up altogether. I was unaware that any facility survived at all, although I thought that something in Silver Springs was named after him; Ross Allen Island? He was a very interesting person and was a big name during the 50's and 60's. The advent of Disney World spelled doom to all the old roadside attractions. Having been born in the early 30's myself, all this makes me feel like a true geezer; but thankfully I'm still killing nice Whitetails and lots of gobblers anyway.

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Dave: One comment on Haast: Given the fact that many antivenom producers and researchers milk many thousands of snakes of all kinds every year and are rarely bitten, many of us have wondered how Haast managed to be bitten so many, many times. That always seemed strange to me, and made me wonder if he was not quite careless. I suppose that his milking "shows" may have had something to do with that? Still weird anyway.

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from Carney wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

DelinKS, sorry about the dogs that you have lost to snakes. I killed a Coral Snake when I was in Panama'.
Due to their small head and small teeth it is generally harder for them to bite humans who are watching out for them but a curious dog would be a different story. The one I killed was about 2' long. I skinned it and dried out the skin to send back to the States as a curiousity to my young nephew, but a pack rat stole it while I was sleeping one night -- if that ain't a fine 'howda ya do", I don't know what is.

I killed a few Ferdelance snakes (locals called them "equis" which is Spanish for "X's" because of the X pattern of their markings). I was warned not to just up and cut the head off but to turn the machete backwards and chop, breaking the back in numerous places but not severing parts. According to people who seemed to know, a severed head could still bite, but the back broken in numerous places immobilized it.

All that I have said in these posts about killing poisonous snakes when coming upon them is in accordance to the principle elucidated by MReeder -- the poisonous snake whose path I cross but let go, may be the one that kills someone's kid, dog, etc. Granted, in some States it is against the law to kill certain dangerous species. In that case the State is morally responsible for any damage done.

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from Quiet Loner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To everyone: there is a preventative vaccine for dogs against rattlesnakes now. It costs a lot (but how much is your dog worth?) and is given in two or three doses. At the time I got it for my dog,2006,it didn't work for cottonmouths. I lost my Boykin Spaniel to a rattlesnake in the aftermath of hurricane Rita. Vaccinated her daughter.

Dave, you sure know how to generate responses.

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from Paul Wilke wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Haasts work was to save lives. Good man, gone.
Non-Venomous snakes are appreciated and welcome.
Only one thing to say about the others---- DELICIOUS.

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from RES1956 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Screw it, kill 'em all, specially copperheaded rattle mocassins, right WAM?
Q: While will a snake not bite a politician or lawyer?
A: Professional coutesy

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from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To Tom Warner: Interesting observation. My guess is that most milkers handle a limited number of species, and if you milk lots of rattlers, for example, you get adept at it. Haast, however, milked everything, and when you handle that kind of variety you're going to get nailed.

To Quiet Loner: Thanks for the kind words. I have powers that ordinary mortals cannot even guess at.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Oh, I'm going to puck Dave.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I'd never met a rattlesnake until I came west. Learned the direct way that if you're not sure that was a rattlesnake you heard, it wasn't.

I only kill 'em when they're in some place where cattle or people are likely to be around. So I've let maybe six or so be, and I've shot/pummeled about the same number, and maybe inadvertently run over a couple in the dark on my way to a morning opener on the 1st day of dove hunt.

Saw a big freakin Gila Monster a couple years back. He was a beauty. Watched him go on his merry way.

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from Dogtown wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

We just returned from a prairie dog hunt in southwest Kansas, and every rancher we encountered warned us about the rattlesnakes. We did kill three, a big boy and two the size of garter snakes. You just have to be very alert at all times. A sawed-off pistol grip 20 gauge carried on the ATV's proved to be just the medicine for Mr No Shoulders. Saten's hand puppet indeed.

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Tom Warner, My youngest brother lives in Ocala and visits the Springs now and then for the intertainment. The wife and I went for a visit 3 years ago and finally got around to our first visit to the Springs. They had Gators and a Croc or 2 and some harmless snakes on hand for the tourists. There was also a concert with a rough looking fellow named Glen Campbell. Back in the 50's and 60's Silver Springs with Ross Allen's Reptile Institute was THE place to visit in Florida. Never got to go as a kid. The folks couldn't afford the price. Later it just wasn't that important.

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from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Interestingly enough, snakes are a non-games species down here and therefore hunting/killing them is illegal and doing so would technically be poaching and is a punishable offense. Ophiophobia is rather common and the demise of many important members of the food chain. For you admitted poachers I would suggest a garden hoe as the best tool for beheading, although you will learn a lot about the 2-4 yard pattern of #6 shot if you prefer shooting them which requires a very precise aim , go with a more open choke, or give them a little more distance if upon shooting the serpent you have not obliterated their fanged heads, that's what I here anyways as I wouldn't go around poaching, nor poaching and then telling the world online. Cheers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poaching

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from smallgamehunter25 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I have nothing against them, in fact, I kinda like them. I always picked them up when I was little (we have no venomous ones here as far as I know), once resulting in a bite from a mean garter snake. I have great respect for Mr. Haast after learning about him and his studies in biology.

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from GERG wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

We owe Mr. Haast a great debt of gratitude. He has saved countless lives in his endevours. He injected himself with venom to build immunity. Might not be everyones cup of tea but I greatly admire him. Im a snake guy my self. Strictly an amateur. I do know what Im dealin with before I handle one. Venomous ones are captured and realed away from people, Others left to rat killin. God bless Mr. Haast and family.

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from O Garcia wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

With all due respect to all who think the opposite, while I'm no snake lover, and wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole, I have a great deal of respect for them. How many legless animals you know can fly, swim like a fish, crawl over hard ground or loose sand without hiccup and climb a tree? Only a snake. WOuldn't you want to sprout a pair of heat detectors, like a viper's, so you can tell that the next few feet of thorn has an angry bull elephant behind it? They're remarkable animals.

Most snakes are actually more scared of us than we are of them, that's why we see less of them than their actual numbers would suggest. They're not dumb, you know, they can see that we are way bigger than they can eat.

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from O Garcia wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I remember that guidebook for tourists during the Sydney Olympics: "are there any poisonous snakes in Australia?"

which was answered by "9 out of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world are native to Australia." Gawd.

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from FirstBubba wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Worked with a guy once who said there were only five kinds of snakes he didn't like
1. Big ones
2. Little ones
3. Live ones
4. Dead ones
5. Anything the other 4 categories didn't cover

Myself, I have a lake (farm pond) within 100 yards of the house.
If it's non-venomous, it's welcome. If it's poisonous, it's GOTTA go! Live or dead, makes no difference. Preferably dead!

Bubba

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from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Of all those 172 bites Bill Haast took, I wonder if there was something about one of those bites that had anticancer substance or something that prevented an illness?

food for thought?

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from O Garcia wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

the cobra, esp the king cobra, is the one venomous snake that can, and does look us in the eye. not one to rub its chin on the dusty ground, it holds its head high, in the manner Mr. Petzal described. the king cobra has been known to reach lengths of 18 feet. reared up, a king cobra that long is eye to eye with a man. no wonder they inspire such fear in us. no wonder they were/are worshiped as gods.

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from jamesti wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

to those who want to protect all the snakes, do you just let large spiders roam around your house? i kill anything that looks venemous! you also obviously have not spent much time around them. get off your high horse!

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from Steve in Virginia wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Geez -- I never thought I had much fear of snakes until I read this post. Let's move to a happier topic, like shooting stuff, or buying new stuff that will help me shoot stuff better, or...(you get the idea).

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from shane wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

"do you just let large spiders roam around your house?"

If it's in my house and I didn't invite it it's liable to get dead fast, regardless of size or species. But that's my house.

In the outdoors it's a little different. I don't go around killing everything I think could be dangerous, especially when they are much less dangerous than people think. Your bedroom is supposed to be plush and comfortable, nature isn't. Don't try to make it safe, it would be boring that way. Stay out of snake country if you're afraid of snakes.

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from shane wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

If not being afraid of snakes implies that someone hasn't spent much time around them, then explain men like Haast, Steve Irwin, and this Tom Warner guy. They all have more experience with snakes than any of you combined, yet somehow they don't fear them or kill many, if at all.

We all understand that there is a time and a place to certain kill snakes, we're not pushing for snake protection. We just think that a shoot on sight policy is an irrational and fear-based way to go about it.

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from chapru wrote 2 years 40 weeks ago

I have a place along the Susquehanna and had a chipmunk problem (12-15) along the foundation and shed. Shortly thereafter, I saw a 4' black snake slithering along the foundation and and the "problem" quickly abated. The last skin shed I found was 52" and I've only seen one or two chipmunks and no wood rats. Non-poisonous snakes are welcome; however rattelsnakes and copperheads will "disappear" because of the dogs.

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from Nyflyangler wrote 2 years 40 weeks ago

In the words of a fiction university professor and adventurer, 'I hate Snakes.'

I've come to what I feel is a reasonable agreement. I won't go looking for them, but if they should reveal themselves, well, I will terminate with extreme prejudice.

So if you ever see my cutting the lawn and I suddenly veer off in an unexpected direction, you'll know why.

Consider it Darwinism for snakes.

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Reference the above story about the youth bit on his jeans. A few days ago the gent that owns that shooting preserve found a (he says) 6 ft timber rattler. The snake had crawled thru the wire into a bird pen and eaten his fill of quail. When he tried to crawl away the rattler got hung up in the wire and died in the 100 degree heat.

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This fall I plan to bird hunt wearing snake proof boots during the warm weather.

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from fly4fishchris wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

"Like Beer Vomit at a Frat Party" Good one. Been there, done that. Like you, I am no friend of the fanged serpents. In fact, I wear snake boots or snake gaiters when ever I am in the back country. What does a guy do when he is 5-10 miles away from the nearest road and he is bit by a rattlesnake?

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from sgaredneck wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

From all my stomping around in South GA, I have gained a healthy respect for anything that slithered and had fangs. Especially the venomous ones we have down here. My Granddaddy, a turpentine & timber man, constantly preached to me about watching where I walked, especially when we were on a sand ridge or in a swampy spot. Over the years I have been struck at and bumped more times than I want to think about even when I thought I was doing an OK job trying to watch my step.

I even had the displeasure of being taken to a snake handling church service once as a youngster. Pardon my saying so, but if your particular belief involves tempting being bit by a snake to prove your faith, you are f****** stupid, and you deserve your eventual fate.

All that said, I echo most of the sentiment that they are necessary parts of the ecosystem, and they have purpose. Just not near me or the dawgs if you please.

Hats off to Mr. Haast for his work and dedication to something I'm quite sure I couldn't do.

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from RipperIII wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I don't run screaming through brush at the sight of snakes, in fact I like to see them...at a safe distance, but neither am I the guy to catch the venomous type for any reason.
I have a friend down in the black belt of Alabama who routinely cruises the swamps catching cotton mouths, copperheads and rattlers for the purpose of milking, armed with only a potato rake...he gets $50.00 per snake.
My hat is off to those brave souls, and what a great service Mr. Haast and those like him do for us.

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from MATroutslayer wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Check out my post "afraid of snakes?" in the campfire section of the message boards. I just don't get it. I know so many people who are afraid these mostly harmless creatures, who kill them out of fear, with the "only good snake is a dead snake" mentality. How many times have you been bitten, or at the very least, inconvenienced by these docile creatures??? I have worked with timber rattlers for almost a decade, never been bitten. They do no harm, check the stats on deaths caused by bees, or bears, or sharks, or autos, falls, trains, planes, pick something.
Bill Haast, you will always be admired. Thanks to your influence and teachings, you have saved the lives of so many serpents that would have been killed for no better reason than misconceptions and fear.
Pick one up (non-venomous, of course), feel it's muscles, feel it's softness, look into it's ancient eyes. You might find they aren't so scary after all.

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from MJC wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

172 bites and he still lived to age 100. You're a tougher man than I am, Mr. Bill Haast.

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Mr. Warner, You mentioned the late Ross Allen. Did you know there are no venomous snakes at the old Ross Allen facility at Silver Springs, Fla? Seems that the gent that took over after Mr. Allen was bitten by a large Diamondback and did not survive. After that they got rid of all but non-poisonous snakes.

Dave, Funny you mentioned snakes. Yesterday a pal at my job related how his son was mowing grass recently at a local shooting preserve North of KCMO that I have patronized. A large Timber rattler struck the boy on his leg. The teen was wearing those hideous oversized baggy jeans that are popular these days and the rattler only got denim. My friend said you could clearly see two fang holes wet with venom in the fabrick. The kid was scared sh-tless and won't mow for the shooting preserve anymore. The snake didn't make it.

Growing up in Central Florida I had my share of close calls with Diamondbacks, Cottonmouth Moccasins and large Coral snakes like the one in the above photo. Other than some my dad and brother caught live to sell all got a charge of shot or bullet. Over the years we lost several very highly prized hounds to snakes. There are plenty of other critters that eat rats and don't kill dogs. If a rattler hits your dog get him to a vet asap. Snake venom will likely make a male dog sterile if he survives (happened to one of my dad's best hounds). My all time favorite dog, a big walker hound named Slim was killed by a huge Diamondback that struck him in the side of his head. I found Slim barely alive with his head badly swollen to the size of a football. One fang went thru his left ear the other just behind the left eye. Snake lovers please understand this is why my friends and I have no love for deadly serpents.

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from RJ Arena wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I have never been afraid of snakes. I do respect and give distance to the more deadly critters, but they are a benefit to our community, considering all of the mice and rats(I really hate these guys) that they eat. I have had on occasion killed a few rattlers and cotton mouths that did not respect my distance, and I am very glad there are those who are brave and foolish enough to "milk" these snakes so we can have anti-venom drugs available for the rest of us.Mr. Haast, rest in peace, I thank you.

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from fishdog52 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Never learned to love snakes, but kids & grandkids have forced me to "man up" and handle them from time to time. Don't kill many except for the occasional water snake. Killed 7 out the pond one day last summer, then read the new game regulations for the upcoming season. NY now protects all water snakes......didn't see that coming. Our legislature apparently felt some sort of kinship with them.

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from RJ Arena wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I know a lot of fellow outdoors-men hate snakes, but I have to admire them as the great hunters that they are. A pit viper is an amazing hunter, able to detect in total darkness the exact location of its' prey by using heat sensors, able to detect a change in temp. within 1/2 of a degree at 50 feet, that is awesome. Don't get me wrong, I do not want one as a pet, but I have plenty of respect!

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from 007 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

We catch blacksnakes alive and put them in our outbuildings to keep the mice down and the little garter snakes, ringnecks, etc, get picked up and pitched out of the yard or away from the house. Anything with venom gets a load of shot.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Prayers to Mr.Haast's family; He seemed to live a full life at 100! As for a sever distain for snakes; I do agree to an extent with MA Troutslayer's comment. I do not like snakes, as such; but they do fill an important role in the food chain. If I had a NEED to defend myself from getting bit by by one; I would stop it/and or kill it. When I see them on there; I leave them be.
Just my thoughts...

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from fortycal wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

We certainly all owe Mr. Haast a great debt. I, however had no idea there were snakes left anywhere in the wild. I thought we had elected them all to public service.

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Forgot to mention a large Coral snake like the one above bit my older brothers German Sheperd guard dog on his nose when the dog sniffed the snake. Dog died shortly after getting to the vet's office.

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from Carney wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

DelinKS, sorry about the dogs that you have lost to snakes. I killed a Coral Snake when I was in Panama'.
Due to their small head and small teeth it is generally harder for them to bite humans who are watching out for them but a curious dog would be a different story. The one I killed was about 2' long. I skinned it and dried out the skin to send back to the States as a curiousity to my young nephew, but a pack rat stole it while I was sleeping one night -- if that ain't a fine 'howda ya do", I don't know what is.

I killed a few Ferdelance snakes (locals called them "equis" which is Spanish for "X's" because of the X pattern of their markings). I was warned not to just up and cut the head off but to turn the machete backwards and chop, breaking the back in numerous places but not severing parts. According to people who seemed to know, a severed head could still bite, but the back broken in numerous places immobilized it.

All that I have said in these posts about killing poisonous snakes when coming upon them is in accordance to the principle elucidated by MReeder -- the poisonous snake whose path I cross but let go, may be the one that kills someone's kid, dog, etc. Granted, in some States it is against the law to kill certain dangerous species. In that case the State is morally responsible for any damage done.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

The only good snake is a dead snake. They have been causing problems since the Garden.

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from Anhinga wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I'm not a poisonous snake 'lover/grabber', but I do enjoy seeing the non-poisonous types around my place. I live in Texas where we have rattlers, all the other pit vipers, and the coral snake, which Haast is shown milking. Snakes play an integral role in the 'balance of nature' and all outdoors folks should recognize their part of the equation. Avoid and/or 'remove' the poisonous ones and 'nurture' the non-poisonous rodent, and snake-eaters (king snakes, rat snakes and racers especially); they provide outstanding, natural vermin control.

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from Tom-Tom wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

At a family gathering here on the farm, my seven year old niece caught a big corn snake and brought it to the picnic table to show the "grown-ups". Twenty-five years later her granny still gets the vapors when reminded of that 4th of July. To Mr. Haast, you dedicated your life to making things better for your fellow humans and I appreciate and applaud your efforts.

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from TDC wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Mr. Haast, my hats off to you sir. Although I do not care for anything that has no legs and can more faster than me, you sir have bigger cajones than I ever will.

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from Bellringer wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To all of you that kill rattlesnakes, what do you do with them then?

Do you follow the sportsmans creed and eat them?

I have cooked rattlesnake several times, they cook up real good just like frying fish.

Also the skins make attractive mounts and hatbands.

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from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To Mike 55: For some time before his death, Haast was in fact immune to most kinds of venom, and on more than one occasion traveled thousands of miles to give his blood directly to a snakebite victim. He was indeed one of the good guys.

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from country road wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Back in the Fifties and early Sixties, my dad encouraged rat snakes of all varieties to make their headquarters in our old hunting cabin in the woods, as 007 said, to keep the rats and mice down. I remember many times when we'd go to visit the camp and find a rat snake comfortably coiled up in the kitchen. Dad would use a broom to sweep it gently out the door. The same treatment did not apply to pit vipers, and they always wound up dead wherever they were found, whether from a vehicle tire, firearm or stout stick. Nowadays, I tend to let the rattlers go unless they are wanting to take up residence near where I'm living or working. Cottonmouths are killed at any opportunity---with extreme prejudice.

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from Carney wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Dave Petzal: Thanks for bringing Bill Haast to our attention and honoring him for his work and contributions. Condolences to his family and friends.

Having grown up in WV, dealing with copperheads on a regular basis, being cautious always in the woods and having one eye open for snake trouble at all times, I now have the marvelous privilege of abandoning caution for snakes as there are no poisonous varieties where I live on the west side of the Cascade Range! It is a blessing.

Not too far south of aforementioned Punta Gorda, as a 6 year old boy I "helped" my uncle kill a rattle snake. At the dinner table, my cousin told of stopping at the beach to fish on his way home from work. The conversation between him and his parents went something like this:
"Oh. Did you catch anything?"
"No fish. But I did catch a rattler."
"A rattler?!?!?!"
"Yeah. It was a small one in the bushes beside where I was fishing."
"Well what did you do with it?!?!"
"I caught it."
"Well where did you put it?!?!"
"It's in the trunk of the car."
"WHAT?!?!?!"
"Don't worry. It's not loose; I put it in my tackle box."

A few choice words with stern warnings and commands followed from my Uncle Bill then he slammed around the kitchen headed for the garage to find a shovel. My mother protested the killing but those who "tamed" the gulf coast swamps don't care much for compassionate sentimentalism directed towards potentially lethal wildlife. And at my uncle's say so I got to go and be a part of "the deed".

It was not a senseless killing, even though it was precipitated by the senseless act of my cousin.

All things considered that cousin turned out pretty well even though he was perhaps in his mid 30's before he quit doing stupid and dangerous things. It was something about having to make a deal with an alligator that cured him of itiotic behaviors...

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

tom warner

I respect your position on snakes. Love 'em or leave 'em. It's just best not to make threats to folks health from the cover of your computer.

shane,

We always expect a comment such as above from you.

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from Ricardo Rodríguez wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Farewell indeed. The man really had a pair and saved thousands of lives. Went to see him when just a child I don´t remember how many years ago. God bless him.

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from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To Z41: A fair question, and there are several answers.

1. This blog is, in large part, about hunting, and most people who hunt will sooner or later come into contact with Mr. No Shoulders. And there are few more attention-getting things in the world than a poison serpent in your immediate vicinity.

2. Since its beginning, this blog has gone into some very odd subjects. It's a big world out there, and a diet of nothing but guns and ballistics can get a little stale sometimes.

3. This blog attracts some very odd people, which is fine because odd people are more interesting than the other kind. To quote a great line from a long-forgotten movie entitled David and Lisa, "If you're normal, who the hell wants to be normal?"

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from demory11 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Bill Haast could well be one of the last venom milkers if things do not change. It seems the venom and poison control centers of our country have decided not to continue to replenish the venom antidote vaccines which, at some point, will leave many snakebite victims basically on their own. If you think this is a bad idea then raise hell with your elected officials and put some heat where they can't ignore it.

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from 99explorer wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I have a friend in Texas who has lost valuable livestock to rattlesnakes while grazing with their heads down in the grass. As Dell described above, their heads were swollen to the size of a football, and none survived.

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Dave: One comment on Haast: Given the fact that many antivenom producers and researchers milk many thousands of snakes of all kinds every year and are rarely bitten, many of us have wondered how Haast managed to be bitten so many, many times. That always seemed strange to me, and made me wonder if he was not quite careless. I suppose that his milking "shows" may have had something to do with that? Still weird anyway.

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from Jason Hart wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

WAM I agree with you and Mr. Petzal on the status of serpents. However I have much respect for those who do the work of Mr. Haast, I just know that they are more of a man than I am and I am ok with that.

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from ekonerding wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I was a kid in southern FL in the early 60s and we often went to the Serpentarium. Favorite memory: a big rattlesnake slithered free from the sack a local guy had brought it in, and briefly headed toward my stepfather before he was pinned down (the snake, that is)! My young niece had a live non-venomous snake "necklace" draped around her neck, and she was totally calm and smiling. Gotta look for those old photos.

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from bill4432 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

i sympathize with those of us who kill all snakes on sight, but snakes play their part in the whole, just like any other critter. aldo leopold said that the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. if we hunt or simply kill certain species into extinction, it affects the whole system.

my mother, who has rats around the house because she refuses to take down or move the bird feeder right outside the kitchen window, called me in a panic the other day. "I just saw a huge snake by the back porch. What should I do?" She described the thing as 6 ft. long,all black, with a white belly. clearly a black rat snake drawn to the pests. i told her to make it welcome. it's a whole lot cheaper than the orkin man, probably just as efficient, and doesn't pollute the soil.

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from RipperIII wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I do not understand those who "kill all snakes on sight".
I'm pretty much a city boy, but I spent almost 45 minutes untangling a king snake from some bird netting I had covering my blueberry bushes, then the son of a gun went right back into the netting, I got him back out, he never attempted to bite me, but he did let out a noxious odor a time or two.
Found out a neighbor killed the snake a few days later...as it was swallowing a rat.
just don't understand it at all.

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from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

from tom warner wrote 3 hours 48 min ago

I am firmly among those who admire and enjoy all wild things and that includes snakes; all of them. I have had a great deal of experience with Timber Rattlers here in the northeast and know that all they want to do is avoid human beings and will go to great lengths to do so and must provoked into striking. I have no sympathy for anyone who kills snakes out of irrational fear and ignorance, especially harmless ones, and those are in the vast majority. I am sick of the macho attitude of many so-called "sportsmen" toward things they do not understand and know little about, and I say this as one who has more hunting and fishing experience than at least 99 out of 1000 of the snake haters. You will kill one in my presence at risk to your health.
*******************************************************
There will most likely be a risk to YOUR health from most of these guys if you try.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

On one of our search and destroy missions, I literally straddled a western diamondback and pissed it was. Had three options, jump, shoot it with my 22-250 or use my 44 mag. If I jumped it would be faster than I can jump, if I shot it with my rifle, I risked shrapnel or I can fall straight back and at 45 degree shoot it with my 44 mag and hope for the rest. I chose my 44 and as the dust swirled around me laying on my back, my hunting buddies yelled if I was ok? Talk about getting my boots and pants ripped off me, I lucked out. For the rattler, it wasn't so lucky, caught the 155 grain Keith cast just behind the head and two other places mid section of it's coiled body.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

ps-"When I see them on their own, I leave them be"

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I see mostly "city boys" or those from parts that have few if any vipers lauding the eco-benefits of snakes. I don't kill the garter snakes I see around my place and we have few if any poisonous snakes where I live. I hate all manner of cotton mouthed rattle-moccasins and dispatched them on sight back in the day.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Since you are in the wilds of New York, you'll probably never have the opportunity to show your love of snakes or your ability to take care of an irresponsible snake killer. LMAO, there tough guy. That is all I have to say about that.

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from coydogger wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I'm going to plead the 5th on the snake issue. But to educate the misinformed, NY encompasses more than the big apple. Go a few hundred miles north and test your true survival skills in the Adirondak Park. A rugged wilderness area larger than Yellowstone,Glacier, Grand Canyon,Great Smokies,and Yellowstone COMBINED! Also containing over 2,000 lakes and ponds.

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

WA Mthunter: It was not a threat, but a heartfelt expression of what I might do to defend a helpless thing that felt strongly about. I am sure that you would do the same for anything that you love as would many others of us.
Shane: I've spent many a day in the Adirondacks in January. It's a lot safer than many other places that I can think of, such as almost any big city.
Haast will be missed. He was the last of the great snake showmen, much like Ross Allen was.

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from MReeder wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Great story about Mr. Haast. Being from rural Texas, I've watched a lot of guys do similar things at rattlesnake roundups and it always gives me the creeps, even though I've kept snakes and other reptiles for pets.
As much as I know that they have their place in the scheme of things, though, I never come across a rattler that I don't kill unless the place I'm hunting has a rule against it. I'll think about letting it go, but then I always wonder whether that might end up being the snake that bites somebody's kid or bird dog, and I de-head it with whatever load I happen to be carrying. Actually had one big rattler that I stepped on get aggressive with me once. He had every chance to escape but he just kept coming. I was deer hunting with a scoped .270, and trying to get crosshairs steady as you're backing away from a magnified, moving rattlesnake head that's coming straight at you was an adventure I wouldn't care to repeat. It felt like being charged by Godzilla. That was the biggest rattler I've ever personally killed -- about 65 inches long and as big around as your upper arm -- and he's the only one out of the dozens I'm come across that ever acted like that. Guess he didn't like getting his tail stepped on.

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from Zermoid wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Snakes are in the "shoot first, ask questions later" category for me. once it's dead then I MIGHT try to figure out what kind it was.

Biggest snake I have ever seen was a rattler back in NJ who was almost as long as the 2 lane road he was trying to cross was wide. I say 'trying' because he got run over by all 4 wheels of a passing car, don't imagine he lived very long after that altho he did make it across the road under his own power.

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from Paul Wilke wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Haasts work was to save lives. Good man, gone.
Non-Venomous snakes are appreciated and welcome.
Only one thing to say about the others---- DELICIOUS.

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from RES1956 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Screw it, kill 'em all, specially copperheaded rattle mocassins, right WAM?
Q: While will a snake not bite a politician or lawyer?
A: Professional coutesy

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from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I'd never met a rattlesnake until I came west. Learned the direct way that if you're not sure that was a rattlesnake you heard, it wasn't.

I only kill 'em when they're in some place where cattle or people are likely to be around. So I've let maybe six or so be, and I've shot/pummeled about the same number, and maybe inadvertently run over a couple in the dark on my way to a morning opener on the 1st day of dove hunt.

Saw a big freakin Gila Monster a couple years back. He was a beauty. Watched him go on his merry way.

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from auburn_hunter wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

@sga I couldn't have said it better myself. I'm just one state west of you and though I live in Suburbia, we do have a decent sized lot in a neighborhood with an 18-acre lake. I'd say we average 1-2 snakes per year in the yard of all varieties, but they all end up of the same variety - DEAD. As WAM pointed out, they are Satan's handpuppets and need not venture into my yard.

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from sgaredneck wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

auburn_hunter,

LMAO

I'm gonna have to borrow your "Satan's handpuppet" line there, my man....

S GA

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from mike55 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Wonder if Mr. Haast is immune to the venom now that he's been bitten so many times? Didn't seem to shorten his lifespan. Have a friend that has a bad case of MS, he used to bring live bees with him when visiting, give him self a couple of bee stings each day. He said it helped. I'm in the "better dead" camp when it comes to our slithery friends. I won't touch 'em. Took my young daughter to an animal fair and she picked up a pretty big snake, don't remember what variety it was. Probably to young to know any better. Now as an adult,if she sees a little spider she about runs out of the house screaming!

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from MATroutslayer wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Two men were prosecuted in MA from NH trying to catch two tagged timber rattlers and kill them. They both got fined $2,500 apiece. They were poaching. I always read posts on here that start off spouting about poachers and trespassers and other scum, right from the very mouths of the same guys that are killing snakes... Good argument guys. If it's got antlers, horns, hooves or beards you'd be in an uproar. There would be a chain gang of pitchfork-wielding guys knocking at the poachers door. If I wasn't a law-abiding citizen with a conscience, I'd have put bullets in those two schmucks. Leave the snakes be. If you must kill them, at least eat them. To each his own, I don't wanna sound like an activist, I eat what I kill. I don't kill mice or rats cuz I don't have to. My snakes take care of that.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Good for Mr. Haast, I hope he turned the venom into medicine for bite victims.
I like snakes, just not the poisonous ones. Around here the cottonmouth and in deep woods, the timber rattler are the baddest, the copper head is bad but generally not deadly. Non-venomous, let them go to eat mice. The bad boys slithering across the road should be treated as such; as your tires approach the devil slam on your brakes and let your tires do the deed and smear them to hell. jmo

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from shane wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, says the rat.

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from z41 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I guess I really missed it, how does he figure into the equation of guns and shooting?

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from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Just to be clear, I do not mind NON poisonous snakes in my immediate area, but I will destroy any snake that can kill me, may pets or family if they are in a threat mode. Which means close enough to strike and prepared to do so. If I can back away or walk around them I generally will.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Those in the south whom have been hit by a Cottonmouth say Mosquitoes don't even land and ticks don't bite. I'll stick to my Cutters and forgo the bite!

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Del in KS: Thanks. Interesting comment. When Allen died at age 73 back in I think the late 80's, I thought that his old place was turned into a alligator attraction and then closed up altogether. I was unaware that any facility survived at all, although I thought that something in Silver Springs was named after him; Ross Allen Island? He was a very interesting person and was a big name during the 50's and 60's. The advent of Disney World spelled doom to all the old roadside attractions. Having been born in the early 30's myself, all this makes me feel like a true geezer; but thankfully I'm still killing nice Whitetails and lots of gobblers anyway.

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from Quiet Loner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To everyone: there is a preventative vaccine for dogs against rattlesnakes now. It costs a lot (but how much is your dog worth?) and is given in two or three doses. At the time I got it for my dog,2006,it didn't work for cottonmouths. I lost my Boykin Spaniel to a rattlesnake in the aftermath of hurricane Rita. Vaccinated her daughter.

Dave, you sure know how to generate responses.

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from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To Tom Warner: Interesting observation. My guess is that most milkers handle a limited number of species, and if you milk lots of rattlers, for example, you get adept at it. Haast, however, milked everything, and when you handle that kind of variety you're going to get nailed.

To Quiet Loner: Thanks for the kind words. I have powers that ordinary mortals cannot even guess at.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Oh, I'm going to puck Dave.

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Tom Warner, My youngest brother lives in Ocala and visits the Springs now and then for the intertainment. The wife and I went for a visit 3 years ago and finally got around to our first visit to the Springs. They had Gators and a Croc or 2 and some harmless snakes on hand for the tourists. There was also a concert with a rough looking fellow named Glen Campbell. Back in the 50's and 60's Silver Springs with Ross Allen's Reptile Institute was THE place to visit in Florida. Never got to go as a kid. The folks couldn't afford the price. Later it just wasn't that important.

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from smallgamehunter25 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I have nothing against them, in fact, I kinda like them. I always picked them up when I was little (we have no venomous ones here as far as I know), once resulting in a bite from a mean garter snake. I have great respect for Mr. Haast after learning about him and his studies in biology.

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from GERG wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

We owe Mr. Haast a great debt of gratitude. He has saved countless lives in his endevours. He injected himself with venom to build immunity. Might not be everyones cup of tea but I greatly admire him. Im a snake guy my self. Strictly an amateur. I do know what Im dealin with before I handle one. Venomous ones are captured and realed away from people, Others left to rat killin. God bless Mr. Haast and family.

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from O Garcia wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

With all due respect to all who think the opposite, while I'm no snake lover, and wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole, I have a great deal of respect for them. How many legless animals you know can fly, swim like a fish, crawl over hard ground or loose sand without hiccup and climb a tree? Only a snake. WOuldn't you want to sprout a pair of heat detectors, like a viper's, so you can tell that the next few feet of thorn has an angry bull elephant behind it? They're remarkable animals.

Most snakes are actually more scared of us than we are of them, that's why we see less of them than their actual numbers would suggest. They're not dumb, you know, they can see that we are way bigger than they can eat.

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from O Garcia wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I remember that guidebook for tourists during the Sydney Olympics: "are there any poisonous snakes in Australia?"

which was answered by "9 out of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world are native to Australia." Gawd.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Of all those 172 bites Bill Haast took, I wonder if there was something about one of those bites that had anticancer substance or something that prevented an illness?

food for thought?

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from O Garcia wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

the cobra, esp the king cobra, is the one venomous snake that can, and does look us in the eye. not one to rub its chin on the dusty ground, it holds its head high, in the manner Mr. Petzal described. the king cobra has been known to reach lengths of 18 feet. reared up, a king cobra that long is eye to eye with a man. no wonder they inspire such fear in us. no wonder they were/are worshiped as gods.

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from jamesti wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

to those who want to protect all the snakes, do you just let large spiders roam around your house? i kill anything that looks venemous! you also obviously have not spent much time around them. get off your high horse!

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from chapru wrote 2 years 40 weeks ago

I have a place along the Susquehanna and had a chipmunk problem (12-15) along the foundation and shed. Shortly thereafter, I saw a 4' black snake slithering along the foundation and and the "problem" quickly abated. The last skin shed I found was 52" and I've only seen one or two chipmunks and no wood rats. Non-poisonous snakes are welcome; however rattelsnakes and copperheads will "disappear" because of the dogs.

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from Nyflyangler wrote 2 years 40 weeks ago

In the words of a fiction university professor and adventurer, 'I hate Snakes.'

I've come to what I feel is a reasonable agreement. I won't go looking for them, but if they should reveal themselves, well, I will terminate with extreme prejudice.

So if you ever see my cutting the lawn and I suddenly veer off in an unexpected direction, you'll know why.

Consider it Darwinism for snakes.

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Well, actually WA Mthunter, I have seen, photographed and captured many hundreds of rattlers, among many other venomous and harmless snakes all over north & south America, and have been a amateur herpetologist all of my very long life, so I can safely say that I know more than most about snakes. That along with hunting & fishing just about everywhere that you can think of. If you want to get in an argument about anything, just mention "snakes", and your off to the races! I cannot think of anything that has more emotion and ignorance attached to it than that subject and I feel pretty damn strongly about it and see no reason why I should tolerate ignorant destruction. Oh, and by the way, NY has more truly wilderness country (the Adirondacks)than any state east of the Mississippi, just in case you did not know. I have spent much of my life in it. And no, I am not a tough guy, but can be if I get sufficiently pissed-off. Jeez, I shouldn't have gotten into this!

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Right on David! As one of your many "odd" readers out here, I truly appreciate the eclectic flavor of your blog. And yes, just guns and ammo can get pretty boring. As one who has had vastly more experience than most with venomous snakes, I must say that I have never been attacked by any of our native poisonous snakes or even seriously threatened. Their philosophy is "leave me the hell alone please". I have long lost count of the snakes I have interacted with. It IS best not to step on one however! They tend to resent that. Some of the Asian and African species can be in another category altogether. I am among the many who view snakes as just another part of our great outdoors that add zest to our lives. Sort of like wolves, which I would not like to do without either.

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from Dogtown wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

We just returned from a prairie dog hunt in southwest Kansas, and every rancher we encountered warned us about the rattlesnakes. We did kill three, a big boy and two the size of garter snakes. You just have to be very alert at all times. A sawed-off pistol grip 20 gauge carried on the ATV's proved to be just the medicine for Mr No Shoulders. Saten's hand puppet indeed.

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from FirstBubba wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Worked with a guy once who said there were only five kinds of snakes he didn't like
1. Big ones
2. Little ones
3. Live ones
4. Dead ones
5. Anything the other 4 categories didn't cover

Myself, I have a lake (farm pond) within 100 yards of the house.
If it's non-venomous, it's welcome. If it's poisonous, it's GOTTA go! Live or dead, makes no difference. Preferably dead!

Bubba

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from Steve in Virginia wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Geez -- I never thought I had much fear of snakes until I read this post. Let's move to a happier topic, like shooting stuff, or buying new stuff that will help me shoot stuff better, or...(you get the idea).

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from shane wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

If not being afraid of snakes implies that someone hasn't spent much time around them, then explain men like Haast, Steve Irwin, and this Tom Warner guy. They all have more experience with snakes than any of you combined, yet somehow they don't fear them or kill many, if at all.

We all understand that there is a time and a place to certain kill snakes, we're not pushing for snake protection. We just think that a shoot on sight policy is an irrational and fear-based way to go about it.

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Reference the above story about the youth bit on his jeans. A few days ago the gent that owns that shooting preserve found a (he says) 6 ft timber rattler. The snake had crawled thru the wire into a bird pen and eaten his fill of quail. When he tried to crawl away the rattler got hung up in the wire and died in the 100 degree heat.

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This fall I plan to bird hunt wearing snake proof boots during the warm weather.

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from fly4fishchris wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

"Like Beer Vomit at a Frat Party" Good one. Been there, done that. Like you, I am no friend of the fanged serpents. In fact, I wear snake boots or snake gaiters when ever I am in the back country. What does a guy do when he is 5-10 miles away from the nearest road and he is bit by a rattlesnake?

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To moshie: Well, I'm not quite certain what you mean, but if "most of these guys", whoever "they" are, knew me you would not say that. Actually I HAVE had one confrontation and the would-be macho-man apologized and backed off. Killing a snake is about as easy as killing a song bird and makes about as much sense. I hate situations like that! To MAtroutslayer: Right on my friend! I could not agree with you more. There have been some pretty severe fines levied here in NY on Timber Rattler killers, and they are beginning to understand that snakes are just a part of nature that they claim to love so much.

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from shane wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I wonder how well the tough guys from tough guy land would do if dropped off in the Adirondack park in January?

Question for the snake haters -- can we refer to you as Rat Huggers?

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from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Interestingly enough, snakes are a non-games species down here and therefore hunting/killing them is illegal and doing so would technically be poaching and is a punishable offense. Ophiophobia is rather common and the demise of many important members of the food chain. For you admitted poachers I would suggest a garden hoe as the best tool for beheading, although you will learn a lot about the 2-4 yard pattern of #6 shot if you prefer shooting them which requires a very precise aim , go with a more open choke, or give them a little more distance if upon shooting the serpent you have not obliterated their fanged heads, that's what I here anyways as I wouldn't go around poaching, nor poaching and then telling the world online. Cheers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poaching

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from shane wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

"do you just let large spiders roam around your house?"

If it's in my house and I didn't invite it it's liable to get dead fast, regardless of size or species. But that's my house.

In the outdoors it's a little different. I don't go around killing everything I think could be dangerous, especially when they are much less dangerous than people think. Your bedroom is supposed to be plush and comfortable, nature isn't. Don't try to make it safe, it would be boring that way. Stay out of snake country if you're afraid of snakes.

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from tom warner wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I am firmly among those who admire and enjoy all wild things and that includes snakes; all of them. I have had a great deal of experience with Timber Rattlers here in the northeast and know that all they want to do is avoid human beings and will go to great lengths to do so and must provoked into striking. I have no sympathy for anyone who kills snakes out of irrational fear and ignorance, especially harmless ones, and those are in the vast majority. I am sick of the macho attitude of many so-called "sportsmen" toward things they do not understand and know little about, and I say this as one who has more hunting and fishing experience than at least 99 out of 1000 of the snake haters. You will kill one in my presence at risk to your health.

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