With warmer weather in the air and spring right around the corner, many of our sleeping friends are beginning to rouse from their seasonal slumber. Most creatures are of little concern to those living in the Mississippi Delta. However, there are some slithering inhabitants that carry a lot more than just a bite.
Snakes are a vital part of our ecosystem. They help control the population of wild pests, such as mice. Snakes play a vital role in keeping our current ecosystem balanced and controlling population. In kind, they also serve as meals for a lot of our feathery friends in the sky; birds.
While most snakes are docile and pose no threat to humans, there are several that one should avoid at all costs and it helps to be educated on the dangers associated with each.
Copperheads are residents of our area and are a common North American breed. These legless lizards are active during the day in spring and fall but are usually nocturnal during the summer.
Copperheads can be identified by several factors. As their name suggests, they are ‘coppery’ in color, a red-brown mix. The head is triangle shaped and is large relative to its neck size, which seems a bit thin by comparison. They are a bulky snake breed and reach about 3 feet in length when mature. The eyes resemble that of a cat; the pupils are slit and not rounded.
Copperheads are the most common venomous species found in the United States. While they are venomous, their venom isn’t the most potent and bites are rarely deadly. Children and the Elderly are at the highest risk if bitten. Regardless, always seek medical attention.
Cottonmouth snakes are also known as water moccasins. These snakes can more commonly be found along the Mississippi River area. They are a semi-aquatic breed and love rivers/lakes/ponds.
Cottonmouth snakes can be identified by their large, triangle-shaped heads and a dark line through the eye. They are larger and can grow to around 4 feet long. Their colors vary, and color alone should not be used to identify them. Adults are often darker than the juveniles, who usually have a bright pattern with a yellow tail tip.
The cottonmouth snake carries a potent venom. Its venom contains hemotoxins, which break down blood cells, preventing clotting. While fatalities are rare, their venom can be serious or deadly. Medical help should be sought out immediately.
Most rattlesnakes live in rocky and open areas. Other species have found homes in deserts, prairies, marshes and forests. Rattlesnakes are most active in the morning and evening in the spring and fall seasons. During hotter months, they are more active at night.
The rattlesnake is the easiest to identify. Adult rattlesnakes will have a rattle attacked to its tail. Younger rattlesnakes may only have a button. They almost always rattle when threatened, warning anyone nearby that they are considered a threat to it. The audible alarm is a warning sign to go the other way.
Rattlesnake bites can be extremely dangerous. With antivenom in our medical arsenal, deaths from a rattlesnake bite are rare. These bites should not be considered anything but a medical emergency. If untreated, the bite can cause severe medical issues or even be fatal. Rattlesnake venom contains neurotoxins which can cause issues with the nervous system, causing shortness of breath or even halt breathing altogether.
To keep your area free from these dangers, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of running into one on your property.
- Eliminate food supplies. Old barns that house rodents are a prime hunting ground for snakes.
- Smoke them out. Snakes live by their sense of smell. The smell of smoke is a warning sign for them. Lighting a fire pit and letting it smoke for several days can serve as a deterrent for them nesting in the area.
- Natural predators. Foxes and raccoons are among the common predators. Cats, turkeys and pigs will also keep them away. Keeping natural predators around is a good way to deter them.
The best way to avoid them in the wild is to remain aware of your surroundings. Avoid tall grasses and areas where you cannot see where you are walking. Carry a walking stick while on trails, so you can turn over any rocks or any potential den or hiding place without the risk of being bitten.See a typo? Report it here.