Field of Science

Botanical field work and snakes

Mostly TPP has a laissez-faire relationship with snakes: if they don't bother me, TPP won't bother them.  For about a decade, a great deal of TPP's field work was done in Queensland, the wet tropics in the vicinity of Cairns (one of my study sites can be seen from the city's harbor, in the distance).  If there's anything you need to learn quickly in Queensland before venturing into its rainforests, it's that virtually every snake that isn't a python is poisonous and certain bushes and trees have vicious stinging hairs.  So when an Aussie field hockey player tries to remove a snake from the field and gets bitten in the process, and dies because it's one of the truly dangerously toxic venomous snakes, you have to sort of wonder about where he was brought up.  Dang, TPP had just one encounter with a taipan, and an image of this sleek snake was burned into his skull after shooing one out of the parking area behind his QLD apartment.  His study site was alive with the common brown snake, another top 10 venomous snake (see linked article for a top 10 rundown), but a rather shy and rather easily intimidated snake.  Good thing!  This makes TPP's current study site in Costa Rica relatively safe what with only fer-de-lances lurking everywhere in the leaves.  There are lots of other little vipers around: eye-lash viper, hog-nosed viper, and the not so little bushmaster, and in spite of nearly stepping on a hog-nosed viper on his first day at this field station, TPP still feels safer than when in Australia. So what was the field hockey player's big, and fatal, mistake?  Not wearing Wellington boots!  Hey, got any field work volunteers out there? 

1 comment:

JaneB said...

This is one of the top reasons why I specialise in the TEMPERATE zone!