It’s October, Halloween is approaching, and you know what that means:  Monsters!  Ghosts!  Goblins!  Zombies!  Snakes!!

Wait a minute, snakes?  Why are snakes associated with Halloween and all these other scary things? Halloween comes in autumn, which is associated with cooler weather in many areas of the country, which means that snakes won’t even be out and on the prowl.

Cottonmouth snake

Cottonmouth snake

Snakes are some of the least understood, most feared, and most persecuted group of animals.  It is estimated that over 50% of people are nervous or anxious in the presence of snakes while another 20% are absolutely terrified.   Many people think that all snakes should be killed on sight, despite the fact that snakes play an important role in controlling rodent populations and only bite if they feel threatened.  In fact, snakes will go to great lengths to be left alone!  Have you ever thought about the rattles on a rattlesnake?  Many people think the sound of the rattles is a sign of aggression from the snake when actually the opposite is true; this is the snake’s method of saying “I’m letting you know that I’m over here; please leave me alone.”

coral-snake-w

Coral snake

There are around 117 varieties of snakes in Texas and they range in size from less than 12 inches to almost 10 feet.  The Houston area is home to 34 different types of snakes.  Of these, only 6 are venomous.  Of these six species, three (Western diamondback rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake, and the canebrake rattlesnake) have been pretty much exterminated in Houston and are almost never seen.  The other three venomous snake species in Houston are the copperhead, the cottonmouth (a.k.a. water moccasin) and the Texas coral snake.

Southern Copperhead snake

Southern Copperhead snake

How can you tell these snakes from other snakes?  The absolute best way is just to memorize what these three species look like, and then stay away from any snake that looks like them!  This really isn’t difficult, given all the different things that people memorize every day (computer passwords, stats for all the Texan football players, etc.).  Another general rule is to just leave any snake you see alone and let it go about its business; the snake will return the favor and leave you alone, also.  And remember; statistics show that a person is over seven times more likely to die as a result of a lightning strike than from a venomous snake bite.

So, the next time you see a snake, don’t be afraid!  Just leave it alone.  You may want to say “thank you for helping to get rid of the rats and mice around here.”

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