April 8, 2015

Texas Ssssnake Guide - Bastrop County and Beyond

by Angela Castillo

Snakes are as Texan as the snow cone man by the car wash at Walmart, so I wasn’t surprised to see one slithering into my neighbor’s yard the other day as I drove by. I have no idea what kind it was, but the reptile was medium-sized. Two birds were dive-bombing the poor thing, and it was slithering away into the grass as fast as its scales would take it.


I slammed on the brakes and went to my neighbor’s door, but no one was home, so I left a note. Then I called animal control. The very nice (and patient) man on the other line explained that snakes move along pretty fast and not to worry about it. I thought he could tell that to my neighbor if they had a nasty surprise while gardening that afternoon.

If you have lived in the Bastrop area for any length of time, you have seen snakes, and this spring, with all the rain, they are extra-plentiful. I happen to think snakes are beautiful and incredible creatures, but they should still be treated with respect, since a bite from a venomous one can at best send you to the hospital for a very long time and set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars for anti-venom.

Here are some of the most common ones in the area...

Western Diamond Back Rattlesnakes


 
Of course, we’ve all heard about this one. These fellows can get up to 4 feet long (or bigger, if you ask the guys sitting at the bar at Leon's Country Store). As with all snakes, unless you have extensive experience handling these things, just slowly back up and go the other way. They will fight back if attacked (and hey, who can blame them, they sort of have the upper hand, or fangs, if you will). Timber (or Canebreak) rattlesnakes are less common, but they are a threatened species, so it's best to leave them alone all together. These snakes can jump straight up into the air and have an unbelievable striking range.

Coral Snakes



Though they are poisonous, these snakes have tiny fangs and pretty much have to chew on your finger to inject venom. Yes, you might ask why anyone would allow that, but it happens. The good news? There are no recorded coral snake deaths in Texas. But a bite would still send you to the hospital, so again, best to stay away.

Copperheads


 
These only get to be 2-3 feet long, (only?!? I can hear you exclaiming. A snake is a snake, right?) but they can deliver a vicious bite. These can be identified by their large heads (room for the fangs) and copper and tan markings.


Cottonmouths



These are found mostly around the water, and aren’t extremely common. According to the Austin Reptile Service website, when people report they have seen one, it’s usually just a common water snake. Lesson? If you see a snake in the water, swim away.

Rat Snake



This is the most common larger snake in the area, and it's pretty much harmless. To humans. Anyone who has found this critter wrapped around one of their favorite laying hens would beg to differ. They are often referred to as ‘chicken snakes’ because they do prey on chickens and eggs; however, they also provide a great service by eating rats and mice. If cornered, they will put on a show and act mean.

Garden snakes



We find these all the time, and these types of snakes are a great way to educate kids and let them get up close, since most are too small to even bite. We have found Garter Snakes, with pink stripes down the back and checkered sides, Ribbon Snakes, green snakes, and the coolest little worm snakes that really do look like worms but have scales and aren’t slimy. Again, if you are not certain it’s harmless, please leave it alone, and don’t pick it up!

 

Other Snakes



According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, there are 68 species of snakes in Texas. Only four of these are venomous, so chances are, your slithering encounter will not be a dangerous one. Your best defense is education. Become familiar with the types of snakes. Wear thick boots and gloves when gardening and carry a walking stick when hiking through brush and tall grass. Bring a flashlight when working with piles of wood or dark sheds to ‘check before you reach.’ Check the borders of your yard before allowing children and pets to go out and play. Call Bastrop Animal Control if you find a snake in your home or garage. (Oh yeah, happens ALL the time around here!)

In Case of Snake Bite



According to the Mayo Clinic website, the best thing to do if bitten by a snake is to remain calm. (Yeah, right.) Despite every western movie you have ever seen, do not try to cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom. Don’t try to capture the snake, but do try to remember what it looks like so you can tell the paramedics, who should have been called by now. If your dog or cat is bitten, it may not be as serious, since most animals have a stronger tolerance for venom, but they still need to be seen by a vet right away.

The golden rule with snakes is to simply walk away. Walk away, friends. Just walk away.

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