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Humans and animals sometimes have to coexist in bizarre ways. As in, we need to give Florida’s water snake population some privacy to get it on.
Nobody’s trolling — snake mating season is officially here. There are actually massive “breeding balls” of banded and brown water snakes doing exactly that on the edge of Lake Hollingsworth in Lakeland, Florida. The snakes aren’t venomous, but their hormones must be raging, and the sight made Department of Recreation officials’ skin crawl enough that they felt it was necessary to cordon off the reptile red-light district abutting the lake and post a Facebook warning.
“It appears they have congregated for mating,” officials said in the post. “They are non-venomous and generally not aggressive as long as people do not disturb them. Once the mating is over they should go their separate ways.”
Parts of that lake now look like Medusa’s hair, or that infamous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones lowers himself into a pit slithering with seething, writhing snakes. Those were actually pythons and cobras (and none of them were seemingly in the mood). Many species of snakes have orgiastic mating sessions in which dozens and sometimes hundreds of them get lucky. Sometimes, as observed with anacondas, they even eat each other. This phenomenon is known as sexual cannibalism.
Several female snakes can be attracted to the same male, or vice versa. When love, or at least pheromones, are in the air, it doesn’t really matter who goes after whom. What might matter is that they could ruin your weekend plans.
“We have put up caution tape in the area and are in the process of hanging signs to make the public aware of their presence,” officials also said on Facebook. “This is for the protection of the public and the snakes.”
Why have snakes evolved this extreme PDA? Nobody really knows. For now, scientists believe the most likely reason is that mating with as many males as possible gives females the chance to have the healthiest offspring they can, after all those sperm butt heads with each other and the strongest get to fertilize her eggs. It also gives every male a chance for his genes to dominate the next generation.
Better that these snakes are left alone to romance each other for a while, because they will give off the nastiest smell if they feel threatened. What a turnoff.