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Snake Safety and Awareness for Your Family
Clint "The Snake Man" Pustejovsky

Snakes are mysterious, misunderstood and feared by many people. When it comes to snakes, a little knowledge can go a long way. Awareness of your surroundings is the first essential element to reducing and preventing injury to yourself and your family. The second most important element of knowledge is keeping your yard landscaped nicely and snake unfriendly. Houston and the surrounding areas have all four types of the venomous snakes located in the US— the Copperhead, Cottonmouth (sometimes called a water moccasin), Rattlesnake (pygmy, canebrake, and diamondback rattlesnake), and the Coral Snake. Each one of these snakes can cause serious injury to children and parents, and in rare cases, are fatal. Rattlesnakes are rare in Harris County, but more common to Montgomery, Brazoria, and Galveston counties.

Keep reading to find the answers to the most common snake questions.

When are snakes active?
From March through the beginning of November, you have a chance of seeing a snake. When snakes first appear after a long winter, they are looking for a meal and then a mate. As temperatures increase during the spring through the end of summer, you may occasionally encounter snakes in your yard and during outdoor activities.  

Why do snakes live around my house?
Most snakes eat rodents (mice, rats and squirrels), other snakes, lizards, amphibians (toads, frogs and salamanders) and insects. This snake food is located everywhere and that means around houses, pools, decks, storage buildings and garages. Many snakes also enjoy a nice basking area (flat landscaping rocks, walkways and driveways) after a big meal to help with their digestion. Many beautifully landscaped yards provide fabulous hiding, eating and breeding situations that facilitate in snake survival. Sprinkler systems also create a nice environment for lizards, snakes, toads and frogs, which entices many species of snakes.

What makes snakes start appearing when we have never seen them around our house before?
Construction of homes, pools, roads, etc. creates a tremendous amount of ground vibration. Snakes do not have inner or outer ears; they rely on taste and sight and are amazingly sensitive to vibrations. Therefore, they move away from their normal hiding places that are now shaky to the still surroundings of our yards and playgrounds. Severe droughts and rains also displace snakes into our yards.

Where do snakes lay their eggs?
Not all snakes lay eggs- some have live young. The three pit vipers (Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Rattlesnake) have live babies that are on their own immediately after birth and equipped with fangs and venom to apprehend prey and protect themselves. The Texas Coral Snake lays three to four eggs in spring. Snakes hatch and are born in the months of June, July, August and September. Texas has many non-venomous snakes that also have live young. Venomous and non-venomous snakes will find a well-drained, secluded place away from predators to have young and lay eggs. They will lay the eggs or deliver the babies and then leave them to experience the world alone without the presence of a parent.

How can I look out for snakes?
Look around! Never step or put your hand where you cannot see. If going out after dark to throw out the trash, don’t walk in the dark to set off the motion sensor lights; instead, use a flashlight to prevent stepping on the back of a snake.

What do I do if I see a snake?
Walk! Do not run away from the snake. Take two steps backward and watch where the snake goes, then calmly turn around and leave the snake alone, or contact a professional to remove the snake. Do not kill the snake; take a picture, so that a professional can provide you with positive identification. With only six species of venomous snakes in Southeast Texas and over 35 species of non-venomous snakes, you are more than likely seeing a non-venomous snake. Never get close to a snake to get a better look.

How can I keep snakes away from my house and yard?
Keep grass and vegetation cut short. Trim shrubs and bushes so you can see the ground under them. Remove debris piles immediately (branches, leaves boards, logs). Cut low limbs (Keep three feet above the ground). After cutting down a tree, remove the stump— do not leave it to rot and provide hiding and nesting places for the Texas Coral Snake. Do not store fireplace logs on your back porch or backyard (use natural gas logs instead)

Seal off spacing under A/C unit slabs, landscaping rocks, etc. Look where the electrical wires and A/C lines go into the house.  There is usually a metal box with a slide cover. Lift the slide and fill with expanding foam, such as Great Stuff©, to prevent snakes from entering your attic. 

Trim borders (along sidewalks, flower gardens) such as monkey grass to no more than six inches wide.

Store any flat item such as plywood in a standing position 4 to 8 inches above the floor or ground.

What should someone do if bitten by a snake?
If you know the snake is venomous, remove any constricting jewelry, watches, clothing, etc. Keep the bite victim calm, and the injured limb still as you would a strain or break. Clean bite area thoroughly, if time to the hospital is not delayed

Call 911 and seek medical attention from a physician or hospital experienced with treating snakebites. Do not apply ice; do not use a tourniquet, and never cut on the fang marks.

If you do not know what kind of snake caused the bite, treat it as you would a venomous bite and do not waste time trying to catch or kill it.

By following these guidelines, you can keep your family more safe and secure from snakes.

For more information see www.texassnakes.net where you can learn about snake consultations and birthday parties.

Some interesting snake facts:
More people die from spiders, bees, wasps and lightning every year in Texas than they do snake bites (approximately 2000 bites occur and only 2 die from snake bites).

The diamondback rattlesnake is responsible for inflicting two thirds of the venomous snakebites in Texas.

Snake venom is complex and is different from snake to snake within the same species.Snakes help control the mouse and rat population around the world more than any other animal.

Snakes have a complete skeleton from head to tail, and have a brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, gallbladder, intestines, and usually over 300 vertebrae.

Rattlesnake snake roundups claim to use extracted venom for medical purposes, which is not true.

 


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