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Tiny Predators Part 2 – Poisonous Snakes


Poisonous Snakes

Images of snakes, especially poisonous snakes conjure images that bring fear into many. While I am not afraid of snakes, I respect the danger they represent. For the most part in the south we have four poisonous snakes to really be concerned about. The diamondback rattle snake, the Timber rattle snake, water moccasin, and copperhead. The rattle snakes tend to prefer more aired land while the moccasin and copperhead prefer wet, bogs, ponds and the like. These snakes are a real threat to humans when engaged in summer work on their properties. Every year while we are having one of our summer work days, someone kills a rattlesnake. And it always brings a plethora of conversations about what “could have been”.  Some simple precautions are in order when dealing with snakes.

  1. Wear snake boots or chaps – these are readily available from many retailers for nominal fees when you consider the peace of mind and protection they provide.
  2. Don’t just watch for snakes, Look for snakes: Keep your eyes open and look hard everywhere you step. These predators have incredible camouflage and blend in very well with their surroundings.
  3. Tread lightly – know your surroundings and your plan of escape. When encountering one of these snakes  – haste makes waste – slow down and consider your options. – The first thing to do is freeze and stop all movement. Snakes have poor eyesight but key in on your movements and body temperature. One of these we cannot control the other we can. Freeze – evaluate and react.
  4. Fire: Just like with ticks, fire will reduce the number of poisonous snakes by reducing the prey. It is not a cure all by any means; but the presence of fire will certainly reduce the number of encounters. By reducing the cover, and opportunities for snakes to hide it helps control their population.

Often when we encounter a snake we are startled. I guarantee so is the snake! They strike only when they feel threatened. Lower the threat on the snake and it will often just slither away. Locate the threat, keep your eyes on it the whole time. If you feel you can back up slowly and do so, then back up very slowly until you are out of their reach. If not, you have to wait them out. Standing still with your eyes focused on them will actually help to calm your fear. Knowing where the snake is helps to understand the situation. Hearing a rattlesnake but not being able to locate it is quite the experience. However once located now I have more control of the situation.

Some people frown on killing of snakes, and they have the right to their opinion, check your local game laws on the legality of killing snakes. But for my money any poisonous snakes are candidates for being killed. This is where knowledge of the snakes is critical. Make sure it is poisonous before you kill it.  – I do not want to be walking with my child to an early morning stand and encounter a rattlesnake – so I kill everyone I see. It guarantees me that snake will do me no harm in the future. I always carry a firearm when in the woods in the summer. Some of the better snake killers are: .22 auto, .38 and .410. In all of these I shoot the shotshell ammunition available. The .22 is very effective, but I have noticed that on the larger snakes it takes several shots to stop them with the shotshell. The .30 and .410 is quick and very deadly. The new “Judge” from Taurus and “Governor” from Smith and Wesson are excellent snake guns. These revolvers shoot either .45 or .410 shotshells. Few snakes can handle the impact of a .410 at close range and the multiple shot enable the shooter to be a bit less accurate and still get the job done.

Each person has to decide for themselves if they want to kill poisonous snakes, but to control the treat, one method is to eliminate the threat. Removing predators from the landscape is only one tool for effective land management. Whether the predators be mammals, insect or reptile, protecting our game animals and our selves is the ultimate goal.