As rising temperatures and increased daylight hours mark the start of a new season, the chances of encountering snakes and other wildlife increases, according to officials with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The best way to handle snakes, according to MDC officials, is to leave them alone.
“Just like us, wildlife is more active in the spring,” explained Sara Turner with the MDC Nature Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. “In the same way that we run into people we know at the grocery store during common shopping hours, we simply see more wildlife when the weather is nice enough that we all want to emerge and enjoy it,” she said.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to more than 20 native species of snakes, including two venomous members of the viper family: the Osage copperhead and the Western cottonmouth, also known as the water Moccasin. Missouri is also home to three other poisonous species, including the Timber rattlesnake, Massasauga rattlesnake and Western pygmy rattlesnake.
The first thing to do when encountering any snake is to back off, give it space, and leave it alone. Many unfortunate venomous snake encounters with humans occur when people are attempting to catch or move the snake. It is best not to disturb it, if possible.
Turner said there are steps people can take to reduce probability of conflicts with snakes.
— Limit inviting shelter: Don’t offer locations for snakes to hide in, such as wood or trash piles. Keep gardens tidy, so there are fewer possibilities for snake cover. Pick up and clean up areas around the home, keep yards mowed and well kept and pile firewood and brush away from the home.
— Don’t tolerate rodents: Taking care of rodent problems right away can avoid attracting snakes. “If there’s a rodent problem, snakes will see an opportunity for food,” Turner said.
— Watch your hands: When doing yard work or other outdoor activities, such as camping or hiking, watch where you step and put your hands, so that you don’t surprise a resting snake.
“Taking a few precautions can ensure both you and the wildlife stay safe while you enjoy the outdoors,” Turner said.
— Cover your feet: Wear snake-proof boots and snake leggings at least 10 inches high if in an area where snakes are found. Never step over logs or other obstacles unless you can see the other side.
— Back away slowly: If you encounter a snake, step back and allow it to go on its way. Snakes usually don’t move fast, and you can retreat from the snake’s path.
In the event of a snakebite, seek medical attention immediately. If you cannot positively identify the offending species as non-venomous, call 911.
More information on snakes and other Missouri wildlife is available at mdc.mo.gov.