It’s Spring and that means people will be spending more time outdoors hiking, camping, and hunting.
That also means the snakes are warming up and coming out, too.
Snake experts say the number one rule is if you come across a snake, just leave it alone.
Most snakes are harmless, but you might want to keep an eye out for them. The chances of actually being bitten are relatively small, and it usually only happens after a snake feels threatened or is accidentally touched.
“One common thing we see is these snakes start to show up in residential areas. The truth is, as we develop out into their habitat, naturally we are going to see more snakes around the locations of those residents,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Landon Cook.
While Texas is home to more than 100 different species and subspecies of snakes, only a few of those are potentially dangerous to humans.
“Of those, only 15 are actually venomous species such as the coral snake, the most common is the rattlesnake, copperheads, and water moccasin. The important thing to know is that you need to leave them alone when you come across them. Most of the snake bites happen when people are handling them or messing with them,” said Cook.
As a precaution, Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) officials advise Texas residents to learn to recognize the snake species in their area.
“One good way to keep snakes out of your yard is to make sure you don’t have big piles of debris laying around, any big wood piles, things like that because those are obviously going to attract snakes,” said Cook.
If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, stay calm but act quickly.
“We do come across very few rattlesnake bites. If you do happen to get bit, the important thing is to remain calm, take off any jewelry or rings or anything that might be an issue when the swelling starts. And obviously call 9-1-1 and go to a professional,” said Cook.
The truth is that South Texas weather makes it so that it is snake season all year long. It turns out that warmer seasons bring more people outdoors and thus snake encounters increase.
How to Avoid
• Take care along creek banks and underbrush.
Snakes do not prey on humans and they will not chase you, in fact they usually retreat or escape if given the opportunity. The danger comes when they are either surprised or cornered. Do not play around with a dead snake, they have been known to bite and envenomate. Get a good field guide and keep it handy especially in the field.
What to Do
1. Assume envenomation has occurred, especially if initial symptoms are present. Initial symptoms of pit viper bites include fang puncture marks; in addition, they almost always include immediate burning pain at the bite site, immediate and usually progressive local swelling within five minutes, as well as local discoloration of the skin. Initial symptoms of coral snake bites include tremors, slurred speech, blurred or double vision, drowsiness or euphoria and a marked increase in salivation within four hours; however, life-threatening effects from coral snake envenomation may not be evident for 24 hours or longer.
2. Identify the species of venomous snake that inflicted the bite, if possible, taking care to avoid another person being bitten. Identification is not necessary, but may be helpful.
3. Keep the victim as calm as possible. This helps reduce the spread of venom and the onset of shock.
4. Keep yourself and any other members of the group calm as well. This will help reassure the victim and ensure that the appropriate first-aid measures are followed, as well as preventing anyone else from becoming injured.
5. Know and be alert for the symptoms of shock, and institute the proper treatment should it ensue. Difficulty in breathing and/or kidney failure are frequent symptoms of envenomation.
6. Wash the bite area with a disinfectant if available.
7. Remove jewelry such as rings and watches, as well as tight-fitting clothes, before the onset of swelling.
8. Reduce or prevent movement of a bitten extremity, using a splint if possible; this helps decrease the spread of venom. For the same reason, position the extremity below the level of the heart.
9. Get the victim to a medical facility as soon as possible and begin treatment there with intravenous antivenom, crystalloid solutions and antibiotics. Antivenom treatment is generally most effective within the first four hours of envenomation, and is ineffective after 8-10hours.
What NOT to Do:
1. Do not make incisions over the bite marks. This can result in significant damage to already traumatized tissue, and can damage intact structures such as nerves and blood vessels, enhance bleeding caused by anticoagulant components of venom and increase the rapid spread of venom throughout the body if the circulatory system is compromised. A suction device, such as the Sawyer Extractor, may be used without making any incisions. This device may remove significant quantities of venom, although its efficacy has yet to be conclusively determined.
2. Do not use a tourniquet or other constricting ban except in extreme cases of envenomation, and then only if properly trained in the technique. Such devices are of no value if applied more than thirty minutes after the bite, and if improperly used they can restrict blood vital blood flow to the traumatized tissue and possibly result in the amputation of an extremity. Unbearable pain can also result, and the improper loosening of such devices can allow sudden systemic absorption of venom.
3. Do not use cryotherapy (including cold compresses, ice, dry ice, chemical ice packs, spray refrigerants, and freezing) for the same reasons that the tourniquets should be avoided, and also because it can increase the area necrosis.
4. Do not use electroshock therapy, a method popularized following publication of a letter from a missionary in South America reporting its effectiveness in treating bites from snakes of uncertain identity. Several controlled clinical trials and at least one on humans have failed to demonstrate any positive result; moreover, the potential negative results from the uncontrolled use of an electric charge are obvious.
5. Do not drink alcohol, as it dilates blood vessels and increases absorption from the circulatory system, and thus helps spread venom faster.
6. Do not use aspirin or related medications to relieve pain, because they increase bleeding. A pain reliever not containing aspirin, however, may be used.
7. Do not use the pressure/immobilization technique, which consists of firmly wrapping the entire limb with an elastic bandage and then splinting, especially for pit viper bites. The theory behind this treatment is to confine the venom to the area of the bite until reaching a medical facility, but studies have shown the technique to be ineffective or worse with venoms which produce local swelling and tissue damage.
8. Do not administer antivenom in the field unless properly trained in the procedure, unless evacuation to a medical facility will take many hours or days, or unless envenomation has been extreme. Intramuscular or subcutaneous application of antivenom has proven to be much less effective, and in some cases ineffective, than intravenous administration. Acute allergic reactions to antivenom can occur, and contemplated field administration of antivenom should include provision for a sufficient supply of epinephrine (adrenalin) to counteract any such potential effects.