FORT HOOD, Texas - It’s warm outside during the day and while people are naturally drawn outside during warmer temperatures here in Central Texas, so are snakes.
“Snakes hibernate in the winter, but they’re also very opportunistic, so if there’s a series of warm days, they’re going to come out, get warm and look for food,” Dr. Amber Dankert, supervisor of Fort Hood’s Wildlife Management, explained. “Folks need to be aware of their surroundings and be watching for snakes.”
Dankert urges Fort Hood families to be observant while out for walks, especially along trails with tall grass. She said snakes are also very good climbers, so they could be hiding in trees, trying to stay out of sight. She said snakes could also be hiding in unusual places.
“They are going to be in places they don’t think they’ll be found,” she said. “Anything that has a bit of a raise, snakes can get underneath.”
In a yard, she advised that snakes could potentially hide in sand boxes, old play toys left in the yard, buckets, tires, storage buildings and leaves, among other places.
“Just be vigilant before kids go outside to play, especially if they haven’t played on something for a little bit,” Dankert advised.
She urged people to use a stick, snake tongs, or a rake to check underneath leaf litter or inside tall grass or weeds.
“Just be gentle.”
While snakes can be scary, Dankert said non-venomous snakes are beneficial to the environment and to people. She said non-venomous snakes keep venomous snakes at bay. They also relieve pest problems, such as rodents, roaches and crickets.
Rat snakes are the most common non-venomous snakes found on Fort Hood. While rat snakes are large and can scare people, she advised people to just leave them alone and they will most likely move on after being seen. Dankert warned that if a non-venomous snake is removed, it allows a venomous snake to move into the area.
Venomous snakes found on Fort Hood include the rattlesnake, coral snake and copperhead. Dankert said a lot of people claim to see water moccasins (cottonmouths), but they are most likely seeing the non-venomous banded water snake, which has a similar pattern.
“There are ways to tell a venomous and non-venomous apart, but in general, just assume everything is venomous and just stay away from them,” she urged. “By the time you can tell what shape their eyes are, you’re a little too close.”
Like everything else, Dankert said snakes are drawn to wildflower areas, so before sitting down in a field of bluebonnets or other wildflowers this spring, tap around the area and be cautious when sitting down to take spring photos.
While people may start looking for the ways to keep snakes away, Dankert advised against using products because they do not work. She said most products contain carcinogens, which can lead to health problems in humans and pets.
“I think snakes get a bad rep,” she said. “Just give them their space, they’ll give humans their space and hopefully everything will be OK.”
If a venomous snake is found that could be potentially dangerous to humans or the snake could potentially harm a pet, people can call Wildlife Management’s service order desk at (254) 287-2113.
For snakes found in Fort Hood Family Housing, a Lendlease privatized military housing community, residents can call (254) 532-3133 and a pest control operator will be dispatched.
“Resident safety is the number one priority of Fort Hood Family Housing,” Chris Albus, project manager for FHFH, said. “As safety is a top priority, we remind the resident to stay a safe distance away from the snake, but try to keep an eye on its location until we arrive.”
If bitten by a venomous snake: stay calm, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room. If possible, let the medical staff know what kind of snake it was. If bitten by a non-venomous snake, people should still seek medical care immediately to prevent an infection. It is best to avoid the possibility of a snake bite altogether.
“We want people to enjoy the outdoors, but just be cautious and look before you step,” Dankert advised. “Watch where you’re walking.”