Can humans and reptiles be friends?

Snakes need friends too

Analyzing social networks of wildlife such as snakes "has made great strides in the last couple of decades," says study co-author Noam Miller. He is a comparative psychologist and Skinner's PhD supervisor.

This particular field of research is deepening and it is now common to use the word “friend” when referring to relationships between non-human animals.

In 2012, things looked different, Melissa Amarello can confirm. The herpetologist and director of Advocates for Snake Preservation was advised not to use the word "friends" in her research on rattlesnakes in Arizona.

“It's really great to see this study,” she says.

Snake gangs

For their study, Miller and Skinner observed 40 young Eastern Garter Snakes. Of these, 30 were from mothers taken from the wild and 10 from a breed.

In order to be able to tell the animals apart, Skinner dotted each of them with non-toxic paints on the head. In his laboratory, he then kept ten of the snakes - mixed males and females - in terrariums with four plastic shelters each. Because he gave more snakes than shelters, the animals had to form groups.

For eight days, a camera recorded images of the terrarium every five seconds from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., so that the movements of the snakes could be traced. Skinner also took photos of the snake groups there twice a day. Then he took out the snakes, cleaned the entire terrarium, removed all smells and put them back - but in different places than before.