The Chinese New Year begins this Sunday, February 10. Unlike in the west, the Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar and, according to Chase’s Annual Events , begins “on the day of the second New Moon following the winter solstice.” According to the 12 year cycle of the Chinese zodiac this makes Sunday, February 10 the first day of the Year of the Snake and a great inducement to learn more about these often despised reptiles.

Do you love snakes or loathe them? Herpetologists (scientists who study snakes and other reptiles as well as amphibians) say that snakes have been the victims of bad PR and actually do more good than harm. Not only that but non-venomous snakes are often misidentified as being poisonous. To that end the Virginia Herpetological Society maintains a website dedicated to “advancing knowledge of Virginia’s reptile and amphibians.” On the site is a guide to identifying the snakes of Virginia. With clear illustrations and yes/no questions you can recognize whatever slithers across your path.

And check out these books:

Above illustration: Northern Copperhead from Virginia Herpetological Society

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