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Winter is gone, spring is finally here and most of us cannot
wait to get outdoors and explore what nature has to offer!
Springtime weather is perfect for hiking, trail riding, water
skiing, fishing, and floating the river. During these activities,
we need to be especially careful about certain creatures that have
been hiding away all winter long, because they also want to come
out for some fun in the sun!
"Once the days get up to the high 70's to low 80's, the snakes
that "winter" in more shallow quarters will start moving" said
Teresa Shisk-Saling RVT, Veterinary Technician at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "This
includes king snakes, rat snakes, milk snakes, among others. The
snakes that hibernate deeper down in burrows, pits, and dens, will
start moving after the ground around them warms up; this group most
notably includes the rattlesnake. The first thing they start
looking for is food and water. Once they shed their skin, they will
be looking for a mate."
If you are hiking or camping, be careful where you sit. If you
want to sit down on a downed tree or old log, check it out first.
Be careful of even stepping over a downed tree or old log, because
there might be a snake on the other side; snakes like to hang out
in places they can hide. Typically, if you find a snake in a tree,
it is non-venomous. Although, be careful of low-lying branches of
trees near the water, because water moccasins like to hang around
"Watch out when you are moving rocks or rock climbing, of where
you put your fingers. If you are clearing up an area or clearing up
trash, snakes like to hide under sheet metal (tin) or old boards
and siding" said Shisk-Saling.
If you do come across a snake in the woods, fields, rivers,
lakes, or rocks, you can admire it and even take its picture, but
leave it alone! Rat snakes, Hognose snakes, and king snakes are
beautiful to look at, but you are doing more harm to them than good
by deciding to take them home with you.
"This time of year the king snakes, milk snakes, rat snakes,
hognose and garter snakes are all moving around (these are
non-venomous snakes)" said Shisk-Saling. "However, copperheads and
water moccasin will be out soon. If you are boating or fishing and
see a snake's entire body swimming on top of the water; that is a
water moccasin. Non-venomous snakes will swim in the water."
The great state of Texas is home to 37 different species of
snakes, and surprisingly, only four of those are venomous. The
Texas rat snake is the most commonly seen snake in the state.
Despite the fact that snakes are not everyone's favorite
wildlife species, they do serve a purpose. In places where people
have killed off all the non-venomous snakes, then the venomous
snakes will move in. If you then kill off the venomous snakes, the
reason they were around becomes apparent, usually rodents will be
everywhere, since you have killed off their predator.
"If you have problems with snakes, they are usually looking for
water or food" said Shisk-Saling. "Clean up any wood piles, trash,
building material, or anything that rodents might find usable for
housing. It is helpful if you create "water-stations" in certain
areas, away from you, but where the snakes can reach them. Just use
shallow pans, or even litter boxes, kept full of water, to keep the
snakes happy and away from potential damage."
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