Warm weather brings out the snakes

Vincent Marshall
Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr captured a 2-foot, 7-inch prairie rattlesnake in Bucklin recently. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Summer is here and with it has come the snakes. Recently Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr responded to a call for assistance in Bucklin where a resident had a rattlesnake in their yard.

The 2-foot, 7-inch prairie rattler was apprehended and Carr wants the public to be careful this summer.

"Please be mindful this summer when out and about, even in your yard," Carr said. "If in a wilderness area, use a walking stick and stay in the middle of well-used trails. Avoid walking through tall grass or brush.

"Always keep your children  near  you and your dogs on a leash. Watch where you are walking and learn to recognize the sound of a  rattlesnake."

The call for service prompted Carr to provide tips when coming across a snake poisonous our not.

  • Never disturb, handle or touch a rattlesnake.
  • If you see a rattlesnake, do not attempt to move or kill it. Rattlesnakes will generally leave an area if left alone. (If the rattlesnake is in your backyard or home, stay away and call the local Department of Animal Services, Fire Department, or 9-1-1). Remember  rattlesnakes  do not always rattle before they strike.
  • Do not handle a freshly killed snake - it can still inject venom.

"Snakes are most active in the early mornings on spring and summer days when the sun is warming the earth. Snakes turn in for the evening, sleeping at night," Carr said.  "Rattlesnakes can only bite from a coiled position.  When  someone gets bitten by a snake, immediately apply a tourniquet above the bite and ice it.

"Generally, not aggressive, rattlesnakes strike when threatened or deliberately provoked, but given room they will retreat. Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing. The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.

"Rattlesnakes usually avoid humans, but about 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, with 10 to 15 deaths, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"Depending on weather and threatening conditions such wildfires; rattlesnakes may roam at any time of the day or night. If walking at night, be sure to use a flashlight."

To avoid rattlesnake bites, some safety precautions will help:

  • Wear appropriate over-the-ankle hiking boots, thick socks, and loose-fitting long pants. Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.
  • When hiking, stick to well-used trails if all possible.
  • Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
  • Look at your feet to watch where you step and do not put your foot in or near a crevice where you cannot see.
  • Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see and avoid wandering around in the dark.
  • If a fallen tree or large rock is in your path, step up on to it instead of over it, as there might be a snake on the other side.
  • Be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.
  • Check out stumps or logs before sitting down and shake out sleeping bags before use.
  • Do not turn over rocks or logs. If you must move a rock or log, use gloves and roll it toward you, giving anything beneath it the opportunity to escape in the opposite direction.
  • Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
  • Avoid approaching any snake you cannot positively identify as a safe species.
  • If you hear the warning rattle, move away from the area and do not make sudden or threatening movements in the direction of the snake.

Snake Facts

-There are over 2700 different breeds of snakes in the world.

-Less than one-third of the 2,700 species of snakes are classified as poisonous and fewer than 300 species of snakes may be fatal to humans. In fact, more than twice as many people in the United States are killed annually by bees, wasps, and scorpions than by snakes.

-Snakes are one of the most persecuted animals in the world.

-In the United States, there are over 25 different species of Rattlesnakes.

-Snakes are one of the only animals in the United States that helps control the US rodent population.

-Of the 42 species of snakes in Kansas, there are only four native venomous snakes you might encounter: the prairie rattlesnake – found in the western half of the state; the massasauga rattlesnake – found in the eastern two-thirds of the state; the timber rattlesnake – found in the eastern fourth of the state; and the copperhead, found in the eastern third of the state. Cottonmouths are very rare in Kansas. Two specimens of the northern cottonmouth have been recorded in the Spring River drainage in the far southeastern corner of the state. Western diamond-backed rattlesnakes were introduced but are not widespread and have been recorded in only a few central-Kansas locations.

-All venomous snakes found in Kansas are pit vipers, meaning they have heat-sensitive pits in front of each eye to help locate prey. Their venom is hemotoxic, causing internal bleeding and tissue damage.

-Snakebites in Kansas are rarely fatal and effective treatment is available. If you think you’ve been bitten by a venomous snake, stay calm to slow the spread of the venom. Keep the site of the bite quiet and below the level of your heart.

Call 911 or get to a hospital as quickly as possible, but do not try to drive yourself.

Bites can be very painful and cause serious tissue damage yet venomous snakebites are rare nationwide.

Seek medical attention immediately if bitten.

A resource to learn about venomous snakes so you’ll know where they live and how to recognize them is the online Kansas Herpetofaunal Atlas hosted by the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University at http://webapps.fhsu.edu/ksherp/default.aspx.

"You can reduce the risk of venomous snakebite by learning all you can about snakes and our wild areas, taking a few simple precautions, and being aware at all times," Carr said.

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com