Jenschke: Snake season is here

Lonnie Jenschke
Erath County Extension Service
Jenschke

Snakes are out.

Maureen Frank, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist, Uvalde, has some tips on how to avoid snake bites and deal with objects and places around homes and properties that may attract snakes.

Snakes are integral to Texas’ array of regional ecosystems. While many Texans view them as a dangerous pest, they are an important predator of insects and small mammals. There are around 75 snake species in the Lone Star State, but only about a dozen are venomous.

“When you encounter a snake, it’s best to just leave it alone,” Frank said.

Where and when you might encounter a snake

Frank said recent heavy rains and flooding could increase the potential for encounters with snakes.

“Heavy rains can push snakes from low-lying areas, and flooding can wash debris onto properties that can become good places for displaced snakes to shelter.

“A snake strikes because it views you as a threat,” she said. “Producing venom is an energetically costly process, and they only have so much. If they use it, they must make more to hunt for food, and they have to work for every single meal, so striking to defend themselves is something they would rather avoid.”

Reduce snake attractors around the house

There are no chemical repellants proven to deter snakes, Frank said, but there are two things homeowners can do to reduce the likelihood of snakes hanging around a location – remove potential shelter and food.

“It’s best to take the habitat approach and remove the things that attract snakes,” she said. “Cutting the grass, removing brush and debris, and trimming the lower branches on bushes and trees."

Reducing hiding spots for snakes will also reduce hiding spots for the prey they seek, like rats and mice, she said. Cleaning around the house and other structures to remove trash, which is shelter for small prey animals, also helps keep snakes away.

Snakes of Texas

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. Common venomous snakes include western diamond-backed rattlesnakes, copperheads and the cottonmouth, also known as the water moccasin.

Snake bites

Despite common misconceptions on how to deal with a venomous snake bite, she said it’s best to stay calm and get to a hospital as quickly as possible.

First, try to identify the snake species, Frank said. This is especially important for coral snakes because the treatments differ significantly from those to treat copperhead, cottonmouth or rattlesnake bites.

Frank said the victim should remove clothing like socks if bitten on the foot and items like rings on fingers if bitten on the hand because of swelling.

Tourniquets and suction devices or using other mythologized methods to remove snake venom could do more harm than good, she said. Hospitals have anti-venin on hand to deal with bites.

“Just focus on getting to the hospital quickly but safely,” she said.

Lonnie Jenschke is the Erath County Extension Agent – Ag/NR. He may be reached at l-jenschke@tamu.edu