RATTLESNAKES Part II
Last week we discussed Rattlesnakes and the Dog Days of late summer. The old saying was that snakes go blind in the “dog days.” A reader wrote me from the Polo area to say that he was told by his granddad, “my great-grandpa used to catch them, and he's been gone for 42 years. I know I was taught that the last few days in July and August were dog days, it’s when weather starts to get ready to setup for fall like and it’s when snakes are shedding there skin and they can’t see because of the shedding and they will strike at anything. That is what I was taught by my great-grandpa, and we been round northern Ray County for six generations an I'm the 5th generation on the same land, and I do remember my great-grandpa.”
I used to hear similar stories. Even though the snakes don't actually go blind, there is some truth to the myth. According to animalquestions.org: “The truth is that like most reptiles, snakes must shed their skin in order to grow. To help the old skin slide off, a grayish-white lubricant is secreted underneath the old skin. This liquid is visible under the clear scale that protects the eye, often making it look clouded over or milky. This is caused from the separation of the outer layer of the epidermis from the anterior part of the outer coat of the eyeballs. This does in fact impair the snake’s vision in some ways. Although snakes are not known to shed any more in August than in any other summer month, shedding blindness is the probable origin of this myth. Interestingly enough, even if a snake’s eyes are injured or become blinded later on in life somehow, a snake will not seem to be handicapped. They are still able to easily find their prey and catch them with the same precision with which they normally would, even when they have fully functional eyes.”
There are a couple more important facts we need to talk about, but they will have to wait until next week.