These slithering creatures can live in the smallest corners of your home and the darkest places you don’t dare visit. Well, not anymore, because today we’re killing every single snake on Earth. How would this snake hunt begin? Would we have to invent a bioweapon to finish the job? And why would things get medieval?
The time for war has come. Humanity has decided that the snakes’ reign of terror on our planet is over. But what are we up against? First, don’t assume these animals will be easy to take down. These cannibalistic carnivores may not have ears but can sense sound waves through their skin to know what’s around them.
Don’t think their poor eyesight will help you, either. While they can’t perceive colors and have fuzzy vision, some can see heat sources as if they were wearing infrared goggles. See that flickering tongue? It can pick up odor particles from the air. And the muscles in that jaw can open wide and devour prey larger than them. That could be your fate if you fail.
But if you did succeed on your mission, how could this bring back the most horrible disease ever? There are about 3,400 recorded species of snakes slithering around Earth. According to the World Health Organization, snake bites kill over 100,000 people every year. How are you going to take these numbers down to zero?
To start, you’ll have to visit the warmer regions of the planet. You’ll also have to search trees, fields and even underground spaces, like sewers. Remember, these are literally cold-blooded killers. Snakes need a place that allows them to hunt and regulate their body temperature. So maybe you could freeze them out.
Well, they’re more resilient than you might think. Burmese pythons are an invasive species that have been found in the Florida wilds since the 1980s. After a record cold snap in 2010, these predators adapted to the climate and started breeding like crazy. So the cold air may not work. Maybe you could create a bioweapon instead.
Snake fungal disease (SFD) has already been spreading globally. It causes painful lesions on a snake’s skin which can lead to death. Some snakes can shed their skin to get rid of it, but others aren’t so lucky. Once it infects one snake, it can easily spread to others nearby. If humans could distribute this fungus to every snake on the planet, we could wipe them all out quickly.
So now these reptilian menaces are gone for good. But did you just doom the planet? Without snakes eating them, rodents, birds and amphibians like frogs would rise in numbers. While these animals might be happy for the moment, that feeling would be short-lived. That’s because they would all compete for the same resources to feed, eventually creating a scarcity of food for all of them.
If you’re farming, you’d have to deal with an increased rodent problem on your land. You’d have to use more pesticides to fight for your crops. As a consumer, you’d have to pay more for your groceries because the same food would now cost more to produce. But the biggest price you’ll pay won’t be at the register.
All the rodents scurrying around could spread diseases across the globe. You might even see a resurgence of the bubonic plague. Yeah, THE plague could come back, and in a big way. Snakes weren’t on top of the food chain either. Boars, mongooses and birds of prey like owls and eagles depend on snakes for their diet, just to name a few of the animals that would be trouble.
If you killed every snake, many of these species would decline in numbers. Some might even become extinct. Humans also rely on snake venom for medical purposes. Potential treatments for diabetes and cancer have been derived from it. With no further access to snake venom, we could endanger even more human life. Like all things in nature, snakes have their place among us.
- “How Snakes Work”. Lacy Perry. 2004. animals.howstuffworks.com.
- “Global mortality of snakebite envenoming between 1990 and 2019”. 2022. nature.com.
- “Fear the serpent: A psychometric study of snake phobia”. Jakub Polák, Kristýna Sedláčková, David Nácar, Eva Landová, Daniel Frynta. 2016. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
- “Where Do Snakes Live?”. Sarah Michaels. 2017. worldatlas.com.
- “Snakebites are on the rise as snakes migrate with climate change”. Walter Ochieng. 2019. statnews.com.