Summertime in Texas means lots of pink lemonade, pool parties, outdoor adventures, and lasting memories. However, fun under the summer sun can also lead to encounters with slippery, slimy, poisonous snakes.
Continue to create more outdoor memories by teaching your kids about snakes and what precautions can be taken to avoid a bite from one of our potent, reptilian friends.
Four species of poisonous snakes inhabit the United States: rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, copperheads, and coral snakes. Each of the mentioned species can be found throughout Texas:
- Rattlesnakes are most populous in dry areas with prevalent rocks and canyons. When threatened, rattlesnakes will curl into a defensive position and rapidly shake their rattles.
- Cottonmouth snakes, also known as water moccasins, are found in temperate aquatic and semi aquatic regions, where prey is plentiful. These snakes require large basking sites and will travel far from water to hibernate. Cottonmouths spend the majority of their time coiled at the edge of bodies of water or draped over nearby vegetation.
- Copperhead snakes are common in wooded areas from the hardwood bottomlands in east Texas, to woody patches in the Trans Pecos of west Texas. Additionally, copperheads can be found in open areas within short proximity of woods. During the summer, copperheads are most active at night.
- Coral snakes are extremely common across the state, from the pine forests in the East to the oak juniper canyons on the Pecos River. These snakes thrive in urban, suburban, and other habitats with plentiful rock crevices or plant cover.
Don’t be alarmed by the prevalence of these creepy crawlies within our great state, they love the sun and warmth just like us! Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent snake encounters:
- Have your kids play in clear, mowed areas. If your kids are playing in an area with potential snake inhabitation, they should wear pants and boots.
- Avoid the edges of lakes, streams, and rivers where vegetation is high.
- Instruct your children to notify you if they see any species of snakes or other threatening critters.
- Teach your children to not bother snakes.
If you or your children do spot a snake it is best to avoid them completely but, here are some tips to identify the four poisonous species mentioned:
- Rattlesnakes can be recognized by the “rattle” apparatus at the end of the tail. This species of snake has scales in a distinct diamond pattern, as well as a large head and fangs.
- Cottonmouth snakes are a very dark, brownish-green or black with light, speckled bellies. The distinguishing trait of this species is the white lining of their mouths. Additionally, cottonmouths have a large arrowhead shaped head and fangs.
- Copperhead snakes have a large head and fangs but, the pattern on their scales is difficult to identify.
- Coral snakes, unlike the other mentioned snake species, have heads the same width as their bodies and small fangs in the back of their mouths. Coral snakes can be identified with the help of a rhyme: “Red touching yellow, killed a fellow- Red touching black, friend of Jack.”
It is easy to overlook the importance of snake safety when enjoying our favorite outdoor activities but, we must expect the unexpected. If a pesky snake puts a damper on summer fun, it is important to know the proper steps to treat a bite:
- Call 9-1-1 immediately. Make a note of the time the bite occurred and remove jewelry or other items that could constrict swelling.
- Then, cover the bite with a clean cloth and apply pressure to eliminate bleeding.
- Next, cleanse the wound with soap and water for five minutes.
- Contact your child’s primary care physician to discuss further actions.
In the event of a bite, there are a few things you should not do:
- Do not try to capture the snake.
- Do not use ice or a tourniquet.
- Do not attempt to suck the venom out of the bite with your mouth.
- Do not give your child any kind of medicine or pain reliever without consulting a physician.
Before your next outdoor adventure, remember to inform your children about the severity of local snakes and how to best avoid them.
A little snake safety, the great outdoors, and some pink lemonade are sure to create lasting memories.
*Information from Texas Poison Center Network and Cook Children’s.