Is there a deadly type of snake known as a “snow snake” killing people in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania? Is there even such a thing as a snow snake? Can someone actually read the viral clipping below without laughing?
I have a hard time believing that someone could actually believe this, but, there you go, some people actually do… Anyways here’s the text that I’m talking about here (along with the viral photo):
This is the deadly snow snake. It has bitten 3 people in the state of Ohio and one in Pennsylvania. It’s been spotted in other states. It comes out in the cold weather and at this time there is no cure for it’s bite. One bite and your blood starts to freeze. Scientist are trying to find a cure. Your body temperature start to fall once bitten. Please stay clear if you have see it. Please forward this and try to save as many people as we can from this deadly snow snake.
Indeed, save as many people as you can… So here’s a quick overview of everything that’s wrong with this before we go onto more interesting things.
– There’s no evidence, records, or stories, of a white snake that “likes cold weather” that can make your blood freeze via bites. That said, many snake venoms could be described as making people “freeze” so perhaps that’s where the wording comes from?
– There was indeed something known as a “snow snake” to some of the American Indian tribes of the region, but, this had/has nothing to do with an actual snake. And was instead used in reference to a common sport, and/or communication system between various tribes in the area. Think of something a bit like the sport of luge, but with teams and wooden “snow snakes” and you’ve pretty much got the idea.
– All known species of snakes (cobras, vipers, pythons, kraits, rattlesnakes, etc) are cold-blooded. They don’t generally do so well in cold environments — but some small species do indeed live relatively far north. These northern species all more or less “hibernate” (brumation) during the winter though — spending most of their time in burrows (or elsewhere). Not wandering about looking for people to bite for no reason…
– While there are white albino snakes, the “snake” in the viral image is made of rubber. It isn’t real.
On that note though…. There is, believe it or not, actually a very weird animal known as an “ice worm” that lives exclusively in the glacial-ice of northwestern North America.
These worms more or less have antifreeze for blood, and if their body temperatures go above 32-41 °F they actually liquefy and disappear completely. They also hate and avoid the sun. Given the way that they can disappear without a trace, and how profoundly weird they seem, it does kind of make you wonder if perhaps larger species related to these might have lived during the ice ages? Weird thought.
The ice worms are classified as making up the genus Mesenchytraeus, and are spread amongst a couple of different species — M. solifugus, M. harrimani, M. kuril, M. maculatus and M. obscurus.
The first ice worms species were discovered in 1887 in Alaska, on the Muir Glacier. These glacier ice worms can be found on glaciers in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. They have not been found in other glaciated regions of the world. The specific name solifugus is Latin for “sun-avoiding,” as ice worms retreat underneath the ice before dawn.
It is not known how ice worms tunnel through the ice. Some scientists believe they travel through microscopic fissures in ice sheets, while others believe they secrete some chemical which can melt ice by lowering its freezing point, like an antifreeze. They feed on snow algae.
When ice worms are exposed to temperatures as high as 5 °C (41 °F), their membrane structures disassociate and fall apart (i.e., “melt”) causing the worm itself to “liquefy.” Ice worms are several centimeters long, and can be black, blue, or white. They come to the surface of the glaciers in the evening and morning. On Suiattle Glacier in the North Cascades, population counts indicated over 7 billion ice worms.
Image Credit: Screen Capture