'For Pete's Snakes': Maritime man on a mission to educate public about snakes in the region
NEW MINAS, N.S. -- With springtime comes the emergence of animals and critters of all types, including snakes.
Many Maritimers suffer from ophidiophobia, even if they don’t know what the term means.
According to one Nova Scotian man, the fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias in the world
“It’s the most common phobia after heights and spiders,” says Pete Freckelton, a self-described ‘snake educator’ living in New Minas, N.S. “I don’t understand why people are afraid of them, but one third of all adults are afraid of them.”
Freckelton recently launched a Facebook page named ‘For Pete’s Snakes’, where he shares information about snakes and even offers private ‘educational encounters’ including exposure therapy to treat ophidiophobia.
“The reality is, I can never expect the rest of the world to love snakes the way I do, but so long as they aren’t killing them, that makes them heroes in my book.”
Recently Freckelton posted to his Facebook page some information about the species of snakes in Atlantic Canada, which he says are entirely harmless.
“There’s about 3,600 species of snake. Only about 600 of those are venomous, only about 375 of those venomous ones are dangerous to humans, so its actually only a tiny little minority of snakes that are a problem, mostly in India and Asia, and we certainly don’t have any of that problem here,” explains Freckelton.
That post went viral, with over 10,000 shares and hundreds of comments.
Freckelton says there are only five species of snakes in Atlantic Canada, in part due to the cold climate of the region.
“The Northern Redbelly and the Northern Ringneck snake, both are tiny. Ringneck snakes reach about two feet long, and their mouths can’t even open large enough to bite you, but these occasionally turn up in people’s basement because they like to den in the crack foundations.”
“The smooth green snake is fairly common, and it eats insects and spiders, that’s it.”
“The only snake you’re liable to get bitten by in Nova Scotia is the Maritime Garter snake, who does bite defensively. If you pick up a garter snake, chances are it might chomp you. But snakes have these tiny, tiny, tiny little recurve teeth that are designed to hold prey, to keep it from backing out its mouth, so even when a garter snake fully chomps on to you, the next day you won’t even notice it was there.”
Freckelton says he wants to continue to educate the public, and let them know there’s nothing to fear if you find a snake in your yard, or even your home.
“If you do come across a snake that has to be moved, say it’s in your home or something, if it’s under two feet long, you can just pick it up and take it outside, it can’t bite you,” says Freckelton. “If it’s over three feet like a garter snake, it will bite you, but the easiest way to prevent that is just wear a leather work glove.”
He offers some timely tips on dealing with the slithering serpents, while keeping both yourself, and the snake, safe.
“If you pick up a snake, and you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up doing substantial damage to the snake. So the simplest thing to do is just to scoop them up by the lower third of their body, not the tip of their tail but somewhere in the lower third, and put them directly into a cloth bag, a pillowcase, something breathable. Then just take it outside and gently release them.”