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Snakes: what to do with them this time of year

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communications Inc.

Summer is coming to a close, the weather is not as oppressive during the heat of the day and snakes are making their appearance.

“Mississippi is blessed with snakes,” said Terry Vandeventer a professional Herpetologist in Mississippi. “Mississippi has 56 different kinds of snakes and of those 56, only six are venomous, and there are very few places that you can go in Mississippi, that hosts all six varieties of snakes.”

Vandeventer said that snakes move with seasonal changes and that both spring and fall are the times that people are most likely to see snakes during the day and he said that when someone sees a snake, they should go against their natural instinct of killing the snake.

“When you see a snake and if you want to know whether it is venomous or not, it’s very easy,” said Vandeventer. “You take two steps back and walk away.”

He said that whether a snake is venomous or not is a moot point.

“If you walk away from it, it can’t hurt you,” said Vandeventer. “It can’t do anything to you if you walk away.”

He said that people often choose to engage the snake and they attempt to either catch or kill the snake and said that is when 85-90% of snake bites happen.

“That sounds absolutely incredulous, that virtually all snake bites that happen in America and in Mississippi, happen by a person attacking a snake, not by a snake attacking a person and that is kind of hard for me to believe, and I am a professional herpetologist,” said Vandeventer.

He said that even if a person steps on a snake, they generally do not bite, instead they stay still and use their natural camouflage to protect themselves.

While Vandeventer said that people should not kill snakes, he added that there are some tips for getting rid of them if they are in or around the house.

“If there’s a snake in your house or in your carport and you don’t want it there, well on the carport or out in the garden, squirt him in the face with a garden hose and you will run him away and he will go away,” said Vandeventer. “It can be a rattlesnake, it can be a cottonmouth, it can be a garter snake or a chicken snake. He will run away if you squirt him with a hose. Otherwise, you can take a plastic trash can, lay it on its side and you sweep him in with a broom. A room has a wide sweeping surface, you are not using a stick, which is kind of like trying to pick up a piece of spaghetti. So sweep him in, tip it up, put the lid on and take him down the road. If that’s your nature, if you can do that type of thing, that’s a good thing, but killing one around the house is a highly dangerous thing to do.”

He said that snakes are peaceful, and they are never aggressive, although some can become highly defensive when they are challenged.

Vandeventer added that if a snake is found in or near a home, they are most likely looking for mice or rats.

“That’s why snakes are so incredibly important to us,” said Vandeventer. “Without snakes, this would be the kingdom of rats and they are the number one predator of rodents in the world and yet still, in 2017, we have people who kill snakes.”

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