About once a year, I try to remind people — especially those who have recently moved into our area — that we have reptiles of all kinds, and we need to be prepared for when we encounter them.
Those reptiles are quite instrumental in holding down the bug and rodent population. They wouldn’t be here if there was nothing to eat.
Just because you clear cut all of the trees and build houses on the tortured land doesn’t mean you will run off all the copperheads, rattlesnakes, coral snakes and, if you’re near water, cottonmouth water moccasins, that have called this area home since God made it.
While about 7,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes annually in the United States, only 0.2 percent of those bites result in death. The Texas Health and Human Services says that about half of all venomous snake bites are “dry,” meaning the snake doesn’t inject venom. Nonetheless, snake bites are nasty and can lead to bad infections.
Since venomous snakes are more common in the rural and suburban areas of Texas, it is important for outdoor enthusiasts and others that frequent these areas to exercise caution.
Outdoor barbecue areas and outdoor kitchens and bars are really popular nowadays, but be careful where you put your hands and feet until you make sure there are no uninvited guests lurking around your furnishings. Be careful out there — you might even discover them on the ceiling fan because they are excellent climbers.
Whether in your yard or in the woods, never step over a log or wood pile without taking proper precautions. If you must move a log, use a long stick or garden tool to ensure that no snakes are near these favored habitats.
I was once out with a friend, and we came upon a pond with an old log about 10 feet long. It appeared to be a perfect place to sit. Instead of sitting, we rolled the log over with some good sized limbs, and under it were a half dozen cottonmouth water moccasins. We decided there were probably better places for us to take break.
It pays to use a flashlight when moving about at night, even in your own back yard or on concrete walks and driveways.
It is important to learn to recognize the four venomous snakes we have in Texas. There have been many times when my wife or children and I would come upon a snake in the yard or out camping, and they would ask what kind of snake that was. Sometimes I didn’t know the answer, but I always knew if it was venomous or not.
We have many more nonvenomous snakes than venomous snakes. I believe one of the most populous snakes we have are rat snakes. They grow large and are constrictors, and they will normally try to get away from you. They will bite you if messed with, however. Their bite will leave a horseshoe shaped mark and is not dangerous unless the skin is broken. That’s when they become prone to infection, so seek medical aid.
If someone is bitten by a snake, take them immediately to a hospital or call 911. If you’re able to call ahead to the hospital, do so, and if possible, identify the snake.
We have no native venomous lizards in Texas. For those, you have to go to Arizona or California.
The common house gecko and the green anole lizards are less-sinister-looking reptiles you might come into contact with. These two critters are the good guys and will eat bugs at a fantastic rate.
The anole will be seen mostly during the daylight hours. If you try to catch one by the tail, they will shed that appendage and escape. Normally bright green in color, the anoles can change to match what they are standing on.
Geckos are nocturnal, and you will see them around your windows and outdoor lights feasting on bugs. They are small with big eyes, and they too will drop their tails if you try to catch one. These can sometimes be seen during the daylight hours if you go digging through dark areas like boxes or closed outdoor sheds.
About all I can suggest is education and awareness of your surroundings. That will help you avoid venomous snake bites and hurting yourself trying to escape from harmless snakes and lizards.