Snakes already have a bad reputation in the eyes of many folks. What one “zombie snake” does to defend itself certainly won’t help the species’ cause. On Thursday, the North Carolina State Parks and Recreation Facebook page shared a nightmare-inducing picture of what appeared to be a dead snake with its mouth wide open.
The problem is that it was only pretending to be dead. That’s what the snake does when it feels threatened or is in some type of danger. It will literally “play possum,” as the old saying goes. The post was part of the parks and recreation department’s “Year of the Snake” program.
If the snake is flipped back over on its belly in the midst of its defensive state, it will repeat the process. That would certainly be a sight to see in the wild, though I don’t plan to see it firsthand. To bolster its defenses and raise the fear factor, the snake is also known to flare out its neck like a cobra — complete with the classic, chill-inducing hissing noise.
Because of that, the mostly harmless snake has earned many local nicknames. Some residents know it as the “puff adder” or “spreading adder.” The Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina said the snake rarely bites, but it is keen on repeatedly striking when it feels as if it’s in danger.
Even worse, according to the Florida Museum, there’s another scary myth surrounding the existence of the “zombie snake.” The snake is known in some places as the “blow viper,” with claims that it mixes venom with its breath, allowing it to kill people from within 25 feet.
Again, that’s not true. The snake does not have venomous glands and cannot spit-kill you from 25 feet away. “In truth, its breath is harmless,” the museum said. According to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, the “zombie snake” can grow to about four feet in length and can be found up and down the Eastern seaboard.
Thankfully, experts say that frogs, salamanders, small mammals and birds are the only ones who need to be afraid of the eastern hognose snake, as those animals make up a majority of its diet. While liberal environmentalists will have you believe nature is fragile and weak, the “zombie snake” is just one small reminder of nature’s adaptive (and sometimes scary!) capabilities that keep us all in check.
If you’re ever hiking through the woods in the eastern United States, please don’t touch any dead snakes. You’ve been warned.