There are already so many conservation groups, why do snakes need their own?

Like me, you probably grew up hearing stories about snakes, stories that rarely had nice things to say about them. From the biblical tale of the Garden of Eden to the modern story of Harry Potter, snakes are usually portrayed as deceitful and villainous. Real snakes prefer to escape our notice, so myths and fables supply what most people know about them. Consequently, misunderstanding and fear eclipse appreciation of these mysterious and intriguing animals.

And snakes need our help. They haven’t escaped the worldwide extinction crisis; climate change, habitat loss, and exploitation threaten many snakes. Like all native wildlife, snakes are an important part of our community and a vibrant, functioning planet. But negative attitudes about snakes may be the biggest barrier to their conservation – it is difficult to gain public support when you aren’t perceived as cute and cuddly.

Advocates for Snake Preservation (ASP) is changing the narrative about snakes

A group of Arizona black rattlesnakes

A group (extended family?) of Arizona black rattlesnakes
(Crotalus cerberus) hanging around outside their den.

Just before founding ASP, Jeff and I worked at a nature preserve full of snakes. Most visitors came for birds or butterflies, but left with a new appreciation for snakes. We introduced a couple who “hoped not to see any snakes during their visit” to Porter, one of our resident black-tailed rattlesnakes, and shared her story with them. They returned from their hike excited to share photos of the “cute snake” they spotted and wanted to learn more. A scout leader who routinely killed any rattlesnake that showed up in his yard decided to reconsider his behavior after learning that rattlesnakes take care of their kids. Stories engage people in a way that simply stating facts and figures do not.

In 2014, we founded ASP to promote compassionate conservation and coexistence with snakes by illustrating cool snake behaviors with multimedia stories. While education and changing attitudes are the heart of ASP’s work, we also take action and advocate on issues that can’t wait for long-term strategy and continue our research to provide a clearer picture of what snakes are really like.

As we celebrate ASP’s fifth anniversary, we are grateful that you are on this journey with us. Without you, we wouldn’t have changed the conversation on rattlesnake roundups, killed the Arizona snake-shooting bill, or launched a program to help people coexist with their snake neighbors. ASP isn’t one, two, or three people – it’s all of us, working together for a world where snakes are respected and appreciated instead of feared and hated. And of course we’d be nowhere without the snakes to inspire and remind us what we’re fighting for. Join us.

by Melissa Amarello, Executive Director