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Saint Patrick's Day: Who actually banished the snakes in Ireland

Swapna Mohanty | Updated on: 27 February 2018, 12:45 IST

With a few days left for Saint Patrick's Day which is on March 17 when the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking would end and there would be a feast day, let us look for the real reason why there are no snakes in Ireland.

What did the legend say

Legend has it that, St. Patrick eliminated snakes from Ireland by driving them into the sea back in the fifth century A.D. and since then there have been no reptiles in the native. One of the beloved stories says that besides introducing Christianity to Ireland, St. Patrick banished all the snakes from the Emerald Isle, where he had undertaken a 40-day fast.

Are there no snakes in Ireland

Scientific Reasons

In Ice Age, England and Ireland were too frigid for these cold-blooded reptiles, snakes to stay there.

However, 10, 00 years ago when glaciers shifted and the land connecting Ireland with neighbouring countries like England and Europe emerged and many animals like bear, wild boars made their way into these countries but, the snake still did not infuse in.

A populous scientific study believed that although glacier started melting yet the land between Ireland and England remained covered for more years than the land piece between Britain and Europe. Hence giving decades for the snake to habitat here.

Besides, the Irish sea is 50 miles wide making it difficult for the reptiles to swim across and reach the land. There has been an argument that seas snake can easily reside here but the sea snakes live in warm tropical waters, not the icy-cold Atlantic.

The scientist believes that snake never came to Ireland only.

Is Ireland alone

Surprisingly this isn't the only country without snakes,  there are no native species of snakes in Iceland, Greenland, Hawaii, New Zealand, parts of Canada, northern Russia.

In fact, snake never existed in Ireland, according to Nigel Monaghan, keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, “At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes in Ireland. So, there was nothing for St. Patrick to banish,"

Snakes in UK

Despite the fact that the UK is an island, it has snakes. Now the question that would be ringing in your mind is, why the UK has snake if the climate was not favorable? The answer is -: The glaciers retreated around 10,000 years ago, exposing a land bridge between Europe and Britain, and another between Britain and Ireland, allowing easy passage to the islands. Melting glaciers drowned Ireland’s land bridge 8,500 years ago, whereas Britain’s persisted for another 2,000 years. So animals from Europe simply had more time to colonize the U.K., and even then only three snake species managed to establish themselves in Britain.

Snake Status symbol of Ireland

Owing to the exotic snakes became a status symbol for Ireland residents. Many snake species were bought by people and kept as a pet. But, when Irish recession happened in 2008, these snakes were let loose. It was then that a few species were introduced in Ireland.

Then the snakes turned up in a lot of random places, but later, most of them were caught hold and sent far off in wild.

First published: 27 February 2018, 12:19 IST