When I was nearly an adult working as a camp counselor, a couple of backpacker friends and I pulled off the Big Foot scare of the century. We frightened some kids on our trip so effectively that one camper even became physically ill. I was really proud of myself until I returned to base-camp and was called into the camp director’s office for a “come to Jesus” talking to. I remember the director saying if it was only up to him, he would have fired me for “putting a ghost behind every tree.”
I have since realized that to many people, nature is already pretty scary because it is a new experience and we tend to fear the unknown. To do what I did and add more terrifying phantoms to the wilderness is pretty irresponsible, not mention reckless and mean-spirited.
I recently saw a picture that gave me the "willies" and reawakened an old phobia of mine. The picture featured some 30 or more rattlesnakes tangled together on a desert hillside. I used to be so afraid of rattlesnakes that I frequently had nightmares featuring these beasts. At first when I saw this post, I was just intrigued and awestruck because this scene allegedly occurred in our local Red Rock National Conservation Area, a popular place to hike, climb and otherwise experience the beauty of nature. Then I started seeing the same image over and over with conflicting information attached to it.
The snake-pit picture was posted on three different Facebook friend’s walls. Two said it was taken in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, NV and the other said it was taken in Oracle, AZ near Tucson. When I looked into it further I discovered the same picture claiming to have been taken in Matagorda Beach, TX, Canyon, TX and Riverton, UT. Hoax-slayer.com stated that this picture has probably been floating around since 2008 and has been claimed to have been taken in many different locations.
Why is this picture representing so many different locations? Are there terrifying, writhing, hissing snarls of snakes all over the place? Why would someone lie about where the picture was taken? Are there nature guardians or protectors trying to discourage people from walking off the trail? Are there safety fanatics trying to protect naive explorers against the dangers of the desert?
If you ask me, there is nothing more terrifying than the thought of stumbling into a pile of writhing rattlesnakes. I think that's why people post this type of image. Everyone has a reaction to it. It gets a lot of attention. It also makes us afraid when we go out into nature where we might encounter a rattlesnake.
Another problem with this type of communication is that it helps to fire up the negative emotions associated with things that we fear, even to the point of hatred or violence. I can't tell you how many times I have been with people when a rattlesnake or tarantula are encountered and the first thing people want to do is kill them. Posting a picture like the snake-pit picture reminds me of the WWI posters put up designed to get people to hate "The Hun". It seems that our instinct is to kill what we fear. This leads to the death and destruction of significant numbers of animals that are just performing their natural function in the ecosystem, keeping a healthy balance of all kinds of living things that depend on each other for survival. Kill all the snakes and you end up with rodent infestations.
Nature should be respected, admired, used for mutual benefit of all creatures, and it should be preserved for future generations. It should not be destroyed, even on a small scale, due to fear and ignorance.
I am not saying that going out into a natural environment doesn't involve the risk of being injured. One should always be aware of what is going on. Don't step near a rattlesnake or put your hand near enough for a strike. We don't step in front of a moving car, just as we shouldn't mess around in front of a coiled rattlesnake. It's not personal and it's not evil or hostile in any way. Snakes like areas where they can do their thing and be protected from the elements and their enemies, for example, rocks, debris, under man made structures, etc.. Just be careful. I have had several close encounters with rattlesnakes over the years. I am always thankful that they rattle when they feel threatened. I appreciate them letting me know that I need to keep my distance. I no longer fear rattlesnakes and have come to enjoy seeing them in their natural habitat. I would hate to think of world with no more rattlesnakes because we killed them all.
As usual be careful in the desert. Take plenty of water, watch your step and stay cool.
Get out and enjoy nature! Don't be afraid, just be aware.
To see the snake-pit picture I have been referring to you can visit the links below. I was not able to track down the original photographer or get to the bottom of where these pictures were really taken, but I doubt if they were in Red Rock National Conservation Area.
www.ebaumsworld.com/pictures/view/417863/ Riverton, UT
www.2coolfishing.com/ttmbforum/showthread.php?t=163473 Mother’s Day at Matagorda Beach, TX