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Warm, wet spring has venomous snakes on the move
Wilson County NewsApril 11, 2012 3,448 views 17 comments
With the arrival of spring, it seems as though more than just rain and warmer weather have returned to the area. There have been a number of venomous snake sightings around the county, and it would seem as though some friendly reminders are due.
There are four different venomous snakes commonly found in Wilson County, and the following will provide a little information about each. Keep in mind that all of these snakes have caused fatalities, and extreme caution should be taken if encountered.
While there are a number of different species of rattlesnakes, the one most likely to be found in Wilson County is the Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). These snakes belong to a group known as “pit vipers.” They have a basic color ranging from brown to gray, depending on their habitat, and their backs are lined with dark diamond-shaped blotches outlined by lighter-colored scales. Diamondbacks grow rather large, averaging about 30-72 inches in length, and are considered “aggressive” by nature.
Rattlesnakes feed on rabbits, gophers, ground squirrels, moles, rats, mice, and birds. They are most often willing to defend their ground when disturbed, but will eventually retreat if left alone.
Because of their size, toxic venom, and aggressive disposition, the diamondback is considered one of the state’s most dangerous snakes. The diamondback is responsible for more bites and fatalities than any other snake in Texas.
Another common pit viper in Wilson County is the copperhead. While there are several different species in Texas, the broad-banded copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix laticinctus) is the species found locally. Copperheads are smaller in size than rattlesnakes, and are easily identified by their alternating bands of copper and tan coloration.
Copperheads are generally considered less aggressive than rattlesnakes, relying instead upon their camouflage to conceal them from threats. Copperheads will strike when provoked, however, and have been responsible for the occasional human fatality.
Copperheads are found in residential areas hunting mice, small birds, lizards, frogs, toads, and insects among rotten logs, woodpiles, and concentrations of leaf litter, where they are especially well-camouflaged.
The Western cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorous leucostoma) is the third pit viper found in the area. The snake has broad bands on its body, and ranges in color from dark brown to nearly solid black. When threatened, the cottonmouth opens its mouth to display white tissue resembling cotton, along with a pair of long fangs.
The cottonmouth averages about 36 inches, and is a “heavy-bodied” snake. They remain close to water and can be found near lakes, streams, and ponds all across the county. Like many water snakes, the cottonmouth is an aggressive snake and should be avoided whenever possible.
The Texas coral snake (Micrurus tener tener) is another highly venomous snake found in Wilson County. This snake is generally small in size, averaging only about 20 inches to 30 inches in length. Its brightly colored bands of red, yellow, and black easily identify it.
On a coral snake, the red and yellow bands touch one another. They can be confused with harmless milk and king snakes that have similar markings, but on those snakes, the red and yellow bands do not touch, at least not here in Texas. If it seems confusing, just remember the saying, “red touch yellow, kill a fellow; red touch black, venom lack.”
Coral snakes feed primarily upon other snakes and lizards. They are largely nocturnal, but can be seen in the early morning hours, especially following rain. They prefer soft dirt and are often found in lawns, flowerbeds, gardens, and other piles of organic matter.
Unlike rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins, which have hinged fangs that resemble hypodermic needles, the coral snake has short, fixed fangs, causing it to grab hold and “chew” to inject venom into its prey.
The venom of coral snakes is extremely lethal, and medical attention should be given to a bite victim as soon as possible, even if the victim shows no ill effects. Symptoms can often be delayed for several hours.
Warnings and first aid
Snakes are often found near homes when seeking food and shelter. Brush piles, stacks of wood, livestock pens, and other such attractions should be kept as far from homes as possible. Overturned boats, old vehicles, tarps, boards, and pieces of tin or metal are all potential sites for snakes.
While the odds of dying from a snakebite are minimal, a victim should seek immediate medical care. The severity of the bite can be affected by a victim’s age, size, health, and emotional condition. The location of the bite, the type of snake, the amount of venom injected, and even how recently the snake last ate can also be factors affecting severity.
For more information, contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. at 1-800-792-1112, or visit their website at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
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April 17, 2012 2:02pm
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April 17, 2012 11:30am
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April 17, 2012 9:36am
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