SOMERVELL COUNTY - Now that the weather is heating up, those legless reptiles will soon make a return to activity. Texas, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife, has the greatest diversity and highest number of snakes in the US at 115 – or more – different species and subspecies.
“They have already started to move and come out of their dens,” Texas Game Warden Zach Havens said. “The weather we’ve had it’s been warm and cold again so they’re out now but I haven’t seen a large number yet. I usually start seeing the first rattlesnakes around mid April. I have seen some rat snakes [already this year]."
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that 7,000-8,000 people per year receive venomous bites in the United States, with about five of those resulting in death.
“Be aware where you step when you’re out and about in the woods,” Havens said. “Be cautious about where you put your hand when cleaning up brush or picking up old metal or tin. Take a little bit of time and educate yourselves on which snakes are poisonous and which ones are not.”
Of the 115 different species of snakes, only a handful of them are poisonous: the copperhead, cottonmouth, rattlesnake (about seven different subspecies including the western diamondback rattlesnake), and the coral snake.
“In the county we do have western diamond back rattle snakes, we have quite a few copper heads, and we also have coral snakes and cottonmouths. The cottonmouth would be what people commonly call water moccasins. Those are the four native species that we have in [in the area],” Havens said.
“Common snakes are rat snakes or chicken snakes, these are the snakes that like to get in the hen house and eat eggs. They’re black and get pretty large, 3-6 foot is pretty common,” he continued. “They’re nonpoisonous, they may strike at you but they’re not going to hurt you. We have some bull snakes around, they can be a little more aggressive if you corner them but they’re not going to inflict serious damage. The two most common of the poisonous would be the rattlesnake and the copper head.”
Though some snakes are poisonous and can be scary, it’s best to first identify the snake – knowledge is power – and let it be, as most snakes are non-poisonous and do serve a purpose in their environment.
“Snakes have a purpose in their environments, they eat a lot of rodents,” Havens said. “They have a useful purpose, especially if it’s nonpoisonous. Snakes are beneficial and they do serve a purpose.”
If you have young children, it is wise to educate them to experience and enjoy wild animals from afar, especially snakes.
“Adults to pass on to young children, if they see a snake to not touch it but to get an adult and not touch it,” Havens said.
Remember, if you stumble across a snake and do decide to take capital action against it, a license is required to do so.
“A license is required to hunt or catch snakes,” said Havens.