On St. Patrick’s Day, most tourists do not remember Saint, the patron saint of Ireland, as a snake hunter.
Legend has it that the Christian missionary expelled these reptiles off the Irish coast as they converted the Gentiles in Ireland in the 5th century AD.
It is said that while he was fasting for forty days on a hill, St. Patrick chased away the attacking snakes and ran back into the sea.
An impossible story, especially when you know that Ireland is different due to the fact that it is not a habitat for native snakes.
This is one of the few places in the world – along with New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica – where you can walk around without fear if you have a strong aversion to snakes.
But in the opinion of scientists, St. Patrick has nothing to do with it.
Became curator of the Department of Natural History National Museum of Ireland In Dublin, Nigel examined extensive collections of monogan fossils and other documents found in the Irish Wildlife List. “The presence of snakes in Ireland is never mentioned, so St. Patrick has nothing to hunt for,” Monaghan said.
So what happened?
Most scientists point to the last ice age that kept the island in very cold temperatures for reptiles until 10,000 years ago. After the ice age, the surrounding seas may have prevented snakes from colonizing the Emerald Islands.
As the icebergs and woolly mammoths retreated north, the snakes returned to northern and western Europe and spread to the Arctic Circle.
Britain, which had a land bridge with Europe until about 6,500 years ago, was colonized by three species of snakes: the venomous ader, the grass snake, and the smooth-crowned snake.
But the connection between Ireland and Britain was severed about 2,000 years ago by a sea rage caused by melting icebergs, Monaghan notes.
Animals that arrived in Ireland before the sea became impassable included brown bears, wild boar and lynx, but “snakes never got here. The number of snakes is slow to colonize new areas, ”he added.
Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, admits that the timing of the expansion of the range of these sensitive, cold-blooded reptiles was not right.
“There are no snakes in Ireland, they could not get there, and the weather was not conducive to their presence,” he notes.
Except for the gray lizard, no other reptiles could reach the island. According to Monaghan, the only native reptile in Ireland, this species must have arrived within the last 10,000 years.
So, if St. Patrick did not know how to distinguish a snake from a lizard, where would this legend come from?
Specialists quickly lean into imagination. Like the serpent that caused the fall of Adam and Eve, snakes are symbols of evil in Judo-Christian beliefs.
These animals are also associated with pagan customs, so St. Patrick’s work on the extermination of snakes can be seen as a metaphor for his Christianization influence.
Irish people looking for snakes to hunt and chase have to find a solution to the slow-moving worm.
According to the Ireland’s Environmental Management Management Body, the species was first recorded in the early 1970s and is thought to have been deliberately introduced to the western part of Ireland in the 1960s.
However, the reptile does not appear to have spread beyond the biodiversity limestone area of County Clare known as Buran.
Snakes in the Irish Plains?
In the future, snakes are likely to be found in Ireland, especially if the pet snakes are deliberately released by their owners.
“No alien species is safe for native wildlife,” says Monaghan. “The isolated nature of an island’s population makes Ireland vulnerable to any intentions, whether intentional or misguided. ⁇
Henry Cockprasic, curator of reptiles at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPQ Aquarium, believes that Ireland’s wildlife is not ready to introduce snakes. Invasive snakes such as Boiga Irgularis have already wreaked havoc on Guam and other island habitats.
As the legend of St. Patrick suggests, getting rid of these unwanted creatures will not be easy.
“I do not want to completely destroy the St. Patrick’s myth,” he said. “I have to keep it partially alive. ⁇
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