Warm temperatures translate to an uptick in snake activity and increases your chances of encounters. Official numbers from smart people that study this kind of stuff say that nearly 90% of snakebites occur during the summer months. I would tend to agree. Over the last decade I have had, what would seem to be, an unusually high number of dicey snake encounters – mostly with the ill-tempered prairie rattlesnake. So, what can you do to avoid confrontation with snakes? Consider these tips:
- Wear Boots.
My wife will never see eye-to-eye with me on this point, but flip flops are NOT every day, all terrain, any circumstance kind of footwear. Having your foot exposed when walking through areas where you cannot see clearly is a bad idea. A pair of boots, and better yet long pants over those boots, gives you extra protection from snake encounters.
- Be Cautious in Tall Grass.
Snakes like to hang out in grassy areas, where there is a decent amount of underbrush. Make sure you are hyperaware of where your foot is landing with each step. I was driving an open cab tractor mowing an overgrown pasture when I unknowingly hit a den of rattlesnakes. The rotating blades started slinging rattlesnakes like something out of a horror movie. I made it out unscathed, but the point is, grass makes great cover, so tread lightly!
- Look Before You Grab.
As a hard and fast rule you shouldn’t go sticking your hands in holes without first checking to see what’s in them – this is especially true when you’re outdoors. Snakes often find crevasses and holes (in the ground, logs and rocks) to hide out. If you are rock climbing, collecting firewood or otherwise gathering or searching the ground and surrounding vegetation, look before putting your hand down or reaching into hard to see spaces.
- Heads Up!
Spoiler alert…snakes can climb. A few summers ago, I was mowing between some tree rows on my property. As I drove underneath a maple tree, a large slithering beast dropped onto my shoulder. In pure shock, I jumped and immediately felt a stinging sensation on my back. I was pretty sure I had been bitten until I realized that I had backed into an electric fence that was on and sending a decent electrical current through my body. What’s the take away here? Watch out for snakes in trees and be mindful of electric fences :)
- Don’t Be Dumb.
You aren’t a snake charmer or snake whisperer, you don’t have the quick reflexes of a cat – you shouldn’t be handling snakes, dummy. The majority of people bit by venomous snakes were holding them, or attempting to, when they were dealt a blow of venom. In fact, statistics say that most venomous snake bite victims are white males, under the age of 25, and in many cases have been drinking. So, being young, enjoying a few cans of liquid courage and running into a snake is probably a recipe for disaster. Resist the urge, don’t try to pick up snakes.
- Protect Your Pup.
If you have a four-legged friend that you bring along on your outdoor adventures it’s a good idea to have them vaccinated against snakebites. Case and point – our black lab named Harley. Harley was a sweet dog, very friendly and curious, but not the sharpest tool in the shed. One day, Harley poked his head into a bush and came out with a gnarly rattlesnake bite to the face. The weeks that followed were pretty rough for him as he spent the bulk of the time at the vet trying to get better. It was also a very costly ordeal. Having the vaccine ahead of time could have reduced the pain and healing time for him and saved us a lot of cash. (No, he didn’t die from the bite. He actually earned the nickname “Rattlesnake” from the experience.)
Roughly 8,000 people a year are the unlucky recipients of a venomous snake bite – and thanks to modern medicine, less than 10 are fatal. A big shout out to God himself, I’m pretty sure he is the only reason that I haven’t suffered a venomous bite myself!
Be cautious out there y’all. Enjoy the great outdoors and stay away from snakes!
Hugs, Handshakes and Stay Snakebite Free