“Snakes are gross!”

“I don’t like them!”

“They’re so scary!”

Snake phobia is one of the most common fears, but hearing these comments can still be quite disconcerting for Andrea Cotter, an animal care specialist at the Vancouver Aquarium – especially since her area of responsibility is the snakes (18 individuals belonging to eight species). She says that people often have misconceptions about these reptiles, due to misinformation from movies and other media.

This emerald tree boa is just one of many snakes at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Andrea says movies like “Anaconda” can perpetuate negative stereotypes about snakes, making people fearful of them. Her thought is supported by what scientists have found about snake phobia: negative information about snakes is more likely what lies at the heart of this phobia, rather than our predisposition to fear an animal that may have been dangerous to our ancestors. Andrea says that in reality, snakes are probably more scared of us than we are of them – and we’re more likely to be bitten by another human being than a snake.

Regardless of what the statistics say, snakes are still quite a mystery to us, and we’re often wary of things we don’t understand. Andrea says we’re more inclined to connect with monkeys or even whales because we’re all mammals, whereas the idea of sharing any type of kinship with snakes is quite foreign. But she says the more we can learn about them the better, since education is really the key in changing attitudes.

The Vancouver Aquarium offers various programs that allow visitors to learn about what make snakes fascinating instead of scary. It’s often during these times that Andrea says she notices a change in people. They’ll be squeamish and unsure beforehand, but will relax and gain a new appreciation for snakes once they’ve had a chance to learn about them, see them up close and even touch them.

As Andrea says, there’s no need to be scared. Join her and a snake during Spotlight on Snakes in the Amazon Gallery to learn more about them.

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