Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Rattlesnake Museum

Offbeat Museums

I love shocking my travel buddy.  "What?  Are you kidding me?  You actually, on your own volition, went into a rattlesnake museum?"

"Yep.  I've even got the Certificate of Bravery to prove it!"

The truth is, I almost didn't go in.  I saw this little adobe building in Old Town Albuquerque and it caught my attention, it was so darn cute.  But Snakes?  Uh-oh.  When I voiced my fears upon entering, the man assured me that all the snakes were behind glass and gently coaxed me to proceed.  He suggested I sit down and watch David Attenborough's excellent documentary, "Life in Cold Blood" before I began my tour.  Good suggestion.  By the time it finished, I had calmed down.
Arizona Black Rattlesnake
Northwestern Neotropical Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback

If it's one thing I've learned after this adventure is to not be so fearful.  I hike a lot in the desert.  I saw five rattlesnakes while hiking in Joshua Tree National Park one time.  The snakes were on the trail and I gave them a wide, wide berth (and almost went back to my car and left).  I have not been back since.

The truth is, a rattlesnake's bite is rarely fatal.  Only about 12 out of 8,000 bites each year result in death.  More people die from bee stings than rattlesnake bites.  Many of the bites to humans are "dry", meaning no venom is injected.  The snake is simply trying to protect himself.  They are actually very shy creatures and the sound of the rattle is not a threat, but a sound of fear.  Their main defense is to remain as silent as possible, and this is what I remember in Joshua Tree.  The snakes didn't move.  They were, I realize now, paralyzed with fear.
  I will still give these creatures a wide berth, of course, but I don't think I'll be so frightened by them.    They are actually quite beautiful.  It's why I love these offbeat museums so much.  They are small and intimate.  I always learn something new.  This time around, it was more of a revelation.  It's we humans who are the deadliest species on earth; not snakes.

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