Uptick in Snake Encounters As Temperatures Warm Up

More people venturing out of quarantine to get fresh air have also contributed to an increase in snake sightings, according to experts.

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We’re now in snake season as the temperatures warm up even more across North Texas.

That’s why local snake experts and snake removal services are reporting an uptick in sightings of snakes, including some that are venomous.

Part of the increase in sightings might have a little something to do with the pandemic as more people ventured out of quarantine for fresh air.

“We’re just seeing a lot of people on the trails and a lot of people walking around,” said Charles “Chuck” Swatske of Snake City Texas, a snake relocation service. He is also a snake expert as a Texas Master Naturalist for the Elm Fork chapter, a program under Texas Parks and Wildlife.

He said there are no more snakes this season than last year but with more people out and about than usual, the more chances there are for a human and snake to cross paths.

“Snakes are on the move so we’re seeing a lot of people discovering and finding out,” he said. “They’re walking and seeing the snake laying there that they normally wouldn’t see because usually, people are out of work the kids are in school.”

Medical City McKinney is reporting an uptick in snake bites right now. According to their data, there were no snake bite treatments in March, but in the month of April, six people went to the emergency room. Another three patients have reported snakebites at the ER this month.

“We’ve got kind of a collision between humans who are spending more time outside, the rodents who are dining on the trash we created, and the snakes are coming up and dining on the rodents,” said Swatske.

Right now, he is busy with calls to remove snakes – both harmless and venomous – from people’s homes and properties.

“They are very highly adaptable to living among human beings," said Swatske. “There’s certain things you can do, if it’s on your patio you can get a hose and spray it with some water and it usually gets it to go on its way. But a lot of people have dogs and cats and kids in their yard. Obviously, having a venomous snake in your yard is some thing that nobody wants."

He recently removed and relocated this venomous copperhead snake hanging out on a windowsill in Flower Mound.

Courtesy: Carroll Challis LeBouef

The snake gets its name from the reddish coloration on the top of its head. It usually has a light brown color on its body with darker, irregular bands around the body.

“We have about 10,000 snakebites a year in the United States and about half of them are copperheads. So, 50% of all of our bites come from one species of snake,” he said.

Swatske recorded a release of that same copperhead from Flower Mound. His GoPro took a strike from the snake before it quickly slithered away into the brush – a perfect example that snakes want nothing to do with humans.

The common rattlesnake has the well-known rattler on its tail. There are four different species of rattlesnakes just in North Texas alone, according to experts.

DFW Wildlife, another wild animal removal service, has also been busy with snake calls lately. In one of the pictures below, a rattle snake was removed from a home in the Fort Worth area.

In North Texas, you’ll also see cottonmouth snakes, known as a water moccasin, as well as the occasional coral snake.

“Actually in Texas, we have more venomous snakes than any other state, even Florida,” he said. “Even though only 15% of all of our snakes in Texas are venomous.”

Swatske reminded us of the age-old rhyme to help you know to identify a coral snake, one of the deadly snakes found in parts of Texas. A milk snake has a similar pattern but is not venomous.

"Red touching yellow, kill a fellow. Red touching black, friend of Jack," he said.

He said your best bet is just to assume any snake you come across on your next walk is venomous.

“The best thing to do is stop and take three steps back. Whether it's venomous or not, the snake is not going to chase after you,” he said. “Leave it alone. By taking three or four steps back, you’re perfectly safe to observe the snake and let it be. At night, don’t go out on your patio and with your flip-flops. Always carry a flashlight at night if you’re hiking or walking because these copperheads and some of her other venomous snakes tend to be out feeding at night.”

Swatske recently removed this young western rat snake from a home. While they might look menacing, they are totally harmless. In fact, they are helpful to controlling the rodent population.

“The reason they’re here is they eat a lot of rodents, all snakes do that’s the big benefit of this," he said.

A fully grown rat snake can eat up to 200 rats per year.

"This is what I like to call free pest control.That’s a huge problem for human beings is the rat population. The snakes take care of a lot of problems," he said.

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