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Image by Joshua Hoehne

Animal Rescue Article

ASP Advocates for Snake Preservation

          Why Snakes?

          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.


         Just before founding ASP, Jeff and Melissa 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. Another time, we spoke with a scout leader who routinely killed any rattlesnake that showed up in his yard. He decided to reconsider his behavior after hearing about the protective behavior of mama rattlesnakes in our study. Stories engage people in a way that simply stating facts and figures do not.

          In 2014, we founded ASP to change how people view and treat snakes. We use storytelling to make snakes more familiar and less scary. To minimize human-snake conflicts and ensure safer coexistence with venomous snakes, we recommend changes to landscapes and our own behavior. While education and changing attitudes are the heart of our work, we also take action and advocate on pressing issues that impact snakes. As we celebrate ASP’s tenth anniversary, we are grateful for the many folks that are on this journey with us. Without them, we wouldn’t have:

  • Killed the Arizona snake-shooting bill;

  • Changed the conversation on rattlesnake roundups;

  • Organized the first symposium on coexisting with snakes;

  • Sent nearly 1000 Rattlesnake Love Letters to residents of Sweetwater, Texas; and

  • Reached tens of thousands of people annually, on and offline, with our multimedia snake stories.


          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 that inspire and remind us who we’re fighting for. Join us.


by Melissa Amarello, Executive Director, ASP

ilke Heiss is a South African writer, who has published poems, short stories and a verse novel in local literary journals and anthologies since 1991. She co-authored self-published books with her late husband, the poet Norman Morrissey, as well as two solo collections. She is a member of the Ecca Poets and has collaborated on nine books with them to date.

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