Extension office warns – “Be smart about snakes”

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

With the arrival of warmer weather snakes become more active and many Crenshaw County residents may come across one of these slithery critters at some point this spring or summer. The Crenshaw County Extension office, a trusted resource for agricultural and environmental education, advises that understanding and respecting snakes’ behavior and habitats is crucial in preventing snake bites and ensuring coexistence with these creatures. 

According to Amanda West Evans, Crenshaw County Extension Coordinator, snakes are an essential part of Alabama’s ecosystem, but Evans cautions the public to be smart about snakes and take appropriate precautions to stay safe. 

“Snakes are a necessary part of the state’s ecosystem,” Evans said. “They play a crucial role in controlling rodent populations and maintaining a balance. However, not all snakes are harmless, posing a potential threat to humans and animals.  If you’re walking in the yard or moving something around, be very cautious because there could be one under a board or a pile of trash. 

“If you are out in the yard cleaning, picking stuff up and moving stuff around, be extremely cautious. Think about places where you might see a small rodent and remember that In the dryer summer months we will see them the most because the snakes will be on the constant search for water. Snakes prefer to leave humans alone. So, if you see a snake, the best solution is just to walk away.”

Extension staff also recommend being mindful of snakes in and around one’s own property. Snakes may enter yards and gardens in search of food or shelter, so it is important to keep gardens and lawns well-maintained by clearing debris and brush piles, and sealing any gaps or holes in buildings. 

Alabama boasts a rich and varied array of wildlife, with one of the most diverse populations in the nation. In fact, Alabama consistently earns a spot among the top five states in terms of overall biodiversity and according to assistant professor at Auburn University and Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Extension Specialist, Wesley Anderson, Alabama is home to 40 species of snakes with only six of those being venomous. 

Poisonous snakes in Alabama include copperheads, cottonmouths (also known as water moccasins), timber rattlesnakes, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, and pygmy rattlesnakes and can be found in various habitats, including forests, swamps, marshes, fields, and even residential areas. 

According to Anderson, one of the first steps in being smart about snakes is to educate oneself about the types of snakes found in Alabama.

“The most important thing is knowing if a snake is venomous or not,” Anderson said. “Always use multiple characteristics whenever identifying a snake and remember that nonvenomous snakes will often act in ways that mimic venomous snakes. There are a lot of resources online if you really need to identify a snake or you can contact your local extension office. However,  if you come across a snake and any doubt exists regarding whether or not it is poisonous, just leave it be.”

Although the chance of dying from a snake bite is incredibly low in America, Anderson said that if a snake bite does occur, it is essential to remain calm and seek medical attention immediately.  If the bite is on an extremity, Anderson suggests keeping the limb elevated above the heart while en route to the hospital. 

“Many bites turn out ‘dry’ as in no venom was injected, but it’s important to be prepared, and to get to the hospital as soon as possible,” Anderson said. “Even dry bites should be monitored for eight hours. Note the time and location of the bite, remove any jewelry or restrictive clothing since bites tend to swell quickly, and if you don’t have anyone to drive you to the emergency room, dial 911. If bitten by a rattlesnake, copperhead, or cottonmouth the antivenom will be the same with two envenomations available, CroFab and ANAVIP. CroFab has a locator on its website so anyone can check which nearby hospitals it is stocked at. Coral snake bites are the only ones treated with a different, coral snake-specific antivenom.”

For more information about the snakes that call Alabama home or for help identifying a snake contact the Crenshaw County Extension office at 334- 335-6312 or email Wesley Anderson at wma0016@auburn.edu. 

To locate a hospital stocked with CroFab antivenom visit https://crofab.com/locating-and-ordering/locate-crofab