May started snake season in Texas. And like previous years, hospital trips, thanks to a Texas native (copperheads), are on the increase this summer.
In May snakes mate, and they shed. Snakes shed their skin because they have outgrown it. During the shedding process they are blind…and mad. (Honestly, who isn’t mad when wearing a girdle?) The shedding process lasts up to 14 days, and they can shed multiple times each year in our area. When they feel threatened, and can’t see, they lash out.
Of the venomous snakes native to Texas, copperheads are part of the largest family: pit vipers (which includes copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes.) Their gray, brown and copper coloration blends so well with fallen leaves and plant debris that “it’s possible to stare right at a copperhead” and not see it, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says.
I know of three people (through less than 6 degrees of separation) who have been bit by copperheads already this summer.
It is uncommon to die from a copperhead bite these days – as long as you get immediate medical treatment – though side effects, such as tissue and nerve damage, from the venom are long lasting and, in some cases, lifelong. Antivenom is also expensive (roughly $12,000 per vial). Some have described the feeling after being envenomated as though your bones are on fire.
I think all would agree it is best to avoid such pain and suffering.
Protecting Yourself from Copperheads and other Venomous Snakes
“Because they are so well camouflaged, most bites occur when a snake is accidentally picked up or stepped on. Always use care when picking up or flipping over logs, boards, old tin or other items where copperheads may be resting,” TPWD said. They also like tall grass, black mulch in landscaping, and window boxes.
I currently have a happy plot of purple hull peas and pinto beans in a 16’ X 4’ section of my garden – the ground cover there makes it a great hiding spot for various critters, but particularly snakes. With the increase in bite reports lately I am always sure to have my boots on when I wade through them to check for harvestable pods.
Tips for Snake Season:
- Wear close-toed shoes while in grassy or wooded areas – or doing yardwork or gardening. I prefer my leather boots.
- Use a rake or stick to probe piles of leaves or stacks of firewood before reaching to pick something up with your hands.
- Keep your grass short.
- Check your child’s outdoor toys, and keep your yard picked up.
If you do encounter a copperhead, “back away and give it some distance, make it feel comfortable, it will take off,” Mark Pyle, president of the Dallas Fort Worth Herpetological Society.
Thus ends my public service announcement – The More You Know. Stay safe.