🐍 Texas doctor explains what to do if you’re bitten by a snake, how to make your environment safer

TPWD: More people die from lightning, insect bites than from snake bites

SAN ANTONIO – Snake sightings could increase as temperatures warm up following a much-needed rainy few weeks in the San Antonio area.

Some people find snakes fascinating while others find them fearsome but reptile encounters are inevitable if you like to spend time outdoors.

Want to know what to do if you see a snake? Dominic Lucia with the Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center answers common patient questions regarding snakes in the video player at the top of this article.

“If you see a snake in your environment just leave it alone,” Lucia said. “They’re naturally shy and most of them are not aggressive at all unless encroached upon.”

People who want to make their homes as least snake-friendly as possible should keep outdoor areas free of debris and keep your grass cut short to help cut down on potential snake sightings.

Additionally, if you have a rodent problem, call an expert who can help get rid of them because rodents are a food source for snakes.

Water features, bird baths and swimming pools are also known to attract snakes Lucia said.

If you do get bitten by a snake, Lucia says not to try to suck out the venom and not to apply a tourniquet.

The closer the bite to the heart, the more dangerous it is.

“What you want to do is stay calm... get the snake bite area at or below the level of the heart. Call 911 and don’t try and capture the snake,” Lucia says.

Getting a photo of the reptile should be sufficient.

Lucia also recommends taking off jewelry in case of swelling.

Snakes are often found sheltering amid landscapes like shadowy areas, brush piles and other places that provide cover from their natural predators like hawks, owls and mammals.

There are at least 76 known species of snakes in Texas, according to TPWD, and the vast majority are non-venomous.

“Keep in mind that many of the snakes around our homes and in our communities are non-venomous snakes, like the Texas rat snake that does an exceptional job of finding rats in our yards as their name implies,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department urban biologist Judit Green previously told KSAT.

The four common venomous snakes in South Texas are copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes.

Copperheads are usually light-colored with red/brown crossbands along their body. They can be found along streams and rivers and in heavily weeded areas.

The photos below show a copperhead and a cottonmouth, respectively.

Copperhead snake.
Cottonmouth, also known as a water moccasin. Photo courtesy Asih.org.

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.

Coral snakes are highly venomous and commonly confused with the nonvenomous milk snake. A coral snake typically has a black head with a red, yellow, and black pattern. A milk snakes usually has a red head with a black, red, black, and yellow pattern.

Coral snake. Photo courtesy www.poinsoncentertampa.org.
Nonvenomous milk snake

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.”

Most venomous snakes in South Texas, with the exception of the coral snake, will be thick and fat instead of thin.

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.

According to TPWD, more people in Texas die from lightning and insect bites than from snake bites every year.

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