SAN ANTONIO – As the Texas weather heats up so does the likelihood you will come across a snake in your day-to-day activities.
Experts with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extention say this is the time of year snake sightings “drastically increase.”
What can you do?
AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist Maureen Frank said the two things homeowners can do is remove potential shelter and food.
Keep storage areas, such as your garage or shed, as clean and tidy as possible. Snakes can fit through tiny openings and easily hide in shadowy areas, which means wood and brush piles should be kept as far away from your residence as possible.
It’s also best to keep grass cut and trim low-hanging branches. This will also reduce hiding spots for prey, such as rats and mice, Frank says.
In a press release sent to KSAT, Frank also stresses the importance of teaching children not to reach inside crevices. “They need to know they shouldn’t reach into a place if they can’t see what might be in there,” she said.
Also, be sure to exercise caution when letting animals out to go to the bathroom; venomous snakes could be lurking in the grass and bite your pet.
Common non-venomous species found throughout Texas include garter snakes, which people also refer to as garden snakes; rat snakes, also known as chicken snakes; and bull snakes, according to the press release.
The four common venomous snakes in South Texas are copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes and coral snakes.
“Being able to identify a snake can help you avoid danger,” Frank said. “But the best advice is to keep your distance and avoid contact.”
Copperheads are usually light-colored with red/brown crossbands along their body. They can be found along streams and rivers and heavily weeded areas.
The photos below show a copperhead and a cottonmouth, respectively.
Cottonmouths, also known as water moccasins, are usually darker in color. They can be dark brown, olive green and even solid black. The cottonmouth prefers swamps, rivers, ponds and waterways, something to be wary of when visiting the River Walk and other rivers.
Coral snakes are highly venomous and commonly confused with the nonvenomous milk snake. Coral snakes typically have a black head with a red, yellow and black pattern. Milk snakes usually have a red head with a black, red, black and yellow pattern.
An easy way to remember the difference between the coral and milk snake is to recite the rhyme “red touch yellow, kill a fellow, red touch black, friend of Jack.”
Rattlesnakes are the easiest to identify because of the rattle at the end of their bodies. Different types of rattlesnakes prefer different environments. Some like marshes and others seek a drier climate.
It’s better to assume a snake is venomous and have it turn out not to be than to assume the other way around.
“Despite common misconceptions on how to deal with a venomous snake bite, it’s best to stay calm and get to a hospital as quickly as possible,” Frank said.
Initial symptoms of a venomous snakebite could include burning sensations around the puncture wounds. Swelling, skin discoloration, blurred vision and drowsiness could also indicate a venomous snakebite.
Sometimes, symptoms might not occur until 24 hours after a venomous bite. It’s crucial to identify the snake after you have been bitten.
“Do not try to kill it,” Frank said. “The emergency room doctors don’t need it. They just need a decent description of the snake or take a photo of it with your cellphone if it’s safe to do so. If someone else tries to get the snake, you run the risk that the doctor may be dealing with two snakebite victims.”
Wash bite areas with disinfectant if it’s available and remove jewelry before swelling starts. Try to keep the infected area below your heart to slow the spread of venom.
Call 911 or get the victim to a medical facility as soon as possible.
“Tourniquets and suction devices or using other mythologized methods to remove snake venom could do more harm than good. Hospitals have anti-venom on hand to deal with bites,” Frank said.