Monday, March 28, 2011

Hoop-de-Loop Reptiles...

Last year I wrote a column about the Drop Bear. This had to do with the legend of a special type of Koala Bear in Australia. The bear would drop onto it prey from the top of a tree. That column included the statement, “Someday I want to write about other legends such as Big Foot, UFOs, Hoop Snakes, the Loch Ness Monster, Crop Circles, the Saratoga Lights, the Jefferson Theater Ghost(s) and such like. Most of these are legends but not all…”

The dictionary defines “legend” as “…a popular story handed down from earlier times whose truth has not been ascertained.” April Fools’ Day is looming so perhaps another article about one of the aforementioned legends is timely.

This essay has to do with the hoop snake, so called because of the snake’s uncanny ability to move about in a most unusual fashion. This reptile gets about by biting its tail with its mouth thus forming a circle or hoop. The snake then uprights itself and rolls along like a wheel.

Hoop snakes are extremely venomous and this may be why the creature is relatively rare. Since they bite into their tails to form a hoop, their own venom often kills them. The hoop snake has an anti-venom gland with which it can inject itself thus neutralizing its own poison. If, however, the anti-venom injection is too late, the snake may die from snakebite.

The hoop snake is a legendary creature of the United States although sightings have been reported from all over the world at one time or another. The snake is mentioned in a letter from 1784 (published in Tour in the U. S. A., Vol. 1, London), which reads:

“As other serpents crawl upon their bellies, so can this; but he has another method of moving peculiar to his own species, which he always adopts when he is in eager pursuit of his prey; he throws himself into a circle, running rapidly around, advancing like a hoop, with his tail arising pointed forward in the circle, by which he is always in the ready position of striking...”

As mentioned, this slithering, rolling reptile only rolls when attacking prey. He rolls toward his prey at great speed, usually from the prey’s blindside. At the last second, the snake’s mouth lets go of his tail and strikes the victim with the tail. Actually the tip of the tail is a stinger which injects the fatal venom.

Unlike his less venomous cousin, the pogo snake, which coils and bounces along like a old car spring, the hoop snake will attack humans. Be advised that should you become aware you are being attacked by a hoop snake, start running. At that last second when the snake straightens out to pierce you with his stinger tail, jump behind a tree. The stinger will hit the tree instead of you. Of course the tree will die immediately and crumple to the ground usually crushing the bewildered serpent. But look at it this way. “Better the tree and the snake than you.”

And remember that a hoop snake can roll downhill faster than he can roll uphill. So if you have the option when you come under attack, run uphill. Of course other problems may arise when you realize that you cannot run as fast uphill as you can downhill. It’s all relative.

Sometimes the snake may disguise himself as a hula hoop. Never disturb an unattended hula hoop. You may unknowingly pick up your demise.

Check out “hoop snakes” on your favorite computer search engine. You may be amazed to find more than 4,000,000 hits telling of this creature and its outlandish episodes.

It’s unbelievable what hoop snakes can do.

Winston Hamby


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