Embrace, Flee or Tolerate: How to Live with Snakes

Featured Wildlife

After the snow melts and temperatures rise, snakes emerge from hibernation to bask in sunlight atop rocks or tuck themselves into leaves on woodland floors. The snakes’ reappearance overlaps springtime activities like hunting shed antlers and morel mushrooms, or scouting for next season’s best treestand locations.

Snakes can live in almost any habitat, from barren deserts to cool, dark swamps. By learning to identify the most likely places snakes hang out, you can often avoid them altogether. Snakes prefer security cover provided by logs, leaves, stumps, boulders, woodpiles and other objects.

Snakes prefer security cover provided by logs, leaves, stumps, boulders, woodpiles and other objects. Photo Credit: WDFW.

But because their actual hideouts aren’t easily seen, snakes often surprise people when they step over a log or through brush while busting through thick cover. If you’re in country that’s home to venomous snakes, look before stepping! Snakes usually fear humans more than we fear them, so do your best not to surprise them by stepping too close for comfort – theirs and yours. If you encounter a dangerous snake, back away slowly without sudden moves.

Assessing whether your area has venomous snakes is a priority, especially if you’re outdoors a lot. Visit your state wildlife agency’s website and search the keyword “snakes.” You’ll find lots of information. If you’re still unsure, search the agency’s website for a biologist to discuss what you should know about snakes before heading to the woods.

Rattlesnakes are among snakes that require antivenom. If a snake bites you or a companion, you must have a packable first-aid kit. Besides bandages, a tourniquet and alcohol wipes, the kit should include a venom-extractor pump to pull toxins from the wound immediately. Photo Credit: CA Fish and Wildlife Department.

If your area has venomous snakes, visit a sporting-goods store and buy snake-proof boots. These high-topped boots have rugged exteriors that prevent a snake’s teeth from penetrating the material and piercing your skin.

Meanwhile, prepare for the worst. If a snake bites you or a companion, you must have a packable first-aid kit. Besides bandages, a tourniquet and alcohol wipes, the kit should include a venom-extractor pump to pull toxins from the wound immediately. Also make sure you have a cell phone to call for help. If you’re in an area without cellular service, carry a satellite phone or personal locator beacon. You might never need these items, but they can save your life in critical situations.

In most cases, however, snakes are misunderstood creatures that cause fear simply because we know little about them. To safely enjoy the outdoors, learn all about the many fascinating, mysterious species you might encounter. You might never want to get close enough to touch one, but by learning to identify the many snake species and their likely locations, you’ll put common fears and phobias to rest.


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