On the East Coast they’re experiencing massive rains and flooding. In the dried up regions of farmland America they are dreaming off water, but when it comes, it will also bring flash flooding. And floods disturb snakes. (One came in through my drier to the basement one year. Not a fun find in all that mud!)
In flooded regions across the country displaced snakes are seeking shelter and food in areas close to people, often in damaged homes. Not all snakes are venomous and in many areas there are worries that people will indiscriminately kill “good” snakes.
But can you kill them? many people may not be aware of this, the fact is that in many states it IS illegal to kill a snake. So you may want to think twice before you grab that shovel! Check here for states with rules.
Heavily damaged structures are particularly attractive to displaced animals because they offer a number of accessible entrances. Animals may also find shelter under debris, including debris piles created during the cleanup effort.
To keep snakes out, make sure to keep your home clean. Remove debris as soon as possible. Seal all holes or cracks that are a quarter-inch wide or larger. Check places such as corners of doors and around water pipes and electrical service entrances. Seal holes in masonry foundations with mortar and holes in wooden buildings with fine 1/8-inch mesh cloth or sheet metal. Watch out while you’re cleaning up, or poking around in holes – snakes could be lurking there.
Check the roof for overhanging vegetation. Snakes are good climbers and can also enter through the attic where trees or shrubs provide access. Have your house checked for rodent problems. If you can eliminate the food source, the snakes will go elsewhere.
If a snake is found in the house, identify the snake. Once it is known to be non-venomous, carefully place a bucket or wastebasket over the snake. Then slip a board carefully under the bucket or basket and carry the snake outside and release it.
The diamondback water snake is non-venomous but extremely aggressive, and often misidentified as poisonous cottonmouths. They release musk and fecal mater when defensive. This one was found in a back yard after the Cypress, TX flood in April 2016.
“Venom is poison, and we handle all kinds of poison exposures—including exposures to venom,” said Dr. Michael C. Beuhler, Medical Director of the Carolinas Poison Center. “We help treat around 500 snake bites statewide every year.”
The CPC says a “surprising number of snake bites can be treated and watched at home with the help of a poison control center.”
About half of all snake bites that the poison center is consulted about can be treated without antivenin.
If bitten DO NOT:
- Cut the bitten area and suck the venom out. This can cause infection.
- Ice the area. Icing causes additional tissue damage.
- Apply a tourniquet or tight bandage. It’s better for the venom to flow through the body.
- Attempt to catch or kill the snake. You might get bitten again.
There are several things people can do to lessen their chance of being bitten:
- Check boots and shoes that are laying in the garage or outside before putting them on.
- Wear sturdy boots or shoes when outside, especially when gardening or hiking.
- Watch your step when outside and watch where your hands go—use a flashlight if it’s dark.
- Back away slowly if you see a snake. Don’t try to pick it up or move it. Snakes bite when they feel threatened.