AUBURN, Ala. – With warmer weather upon us, snakes and other wildlife are more active. It is not uncommon to run across a nonvenomous snake during the summer months. While venomous snakes are known as the bigger threat, nonvenomous snakes can still pose a health risk to people.
They do not have venom to harm people, but a snake bite can cause infections. Left untreated, these infections could cause serious health problems.
Places Snakes Are Found
As silly as it sounds, the greatest health risk nonvenomous snakes pose to humans is people hurting themselves trying to get away when they are frightened. Knowing where snakes tend to hang around can help people be alert when in these areas.
Snakes are found just about anywhere. Sheds, barns, flower beds, gardens and wood piles are great places for snakes to hang out.
Dr. Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said snakes like to stay in areas where they can find food and feel protected.
“Snakes are most likely to be found in areas that provide cover or shelter for them and their prey,” Armstrong said. “Removing these types of areas from around your house will help reduce, but not eliminate, the possibility of snakes around the home.”
Snakes May Be Aggressive
Armstrong said that snakes can be aggressive creatures.
“Overall, most snakes, regardless of species, are not aggressive. However, any snake, venomous or not, may be aggressive if cornered or picked up,” Armstrong said. “Some species tend to bite more readily than others, but there is great variation even within a species.”
Nonvenomous snake bites can cause problems because of possible infection. Armstrong said that anytime skin is opened, the risk of infection is there.
“All snakes have teeth so, they all have the potential to break the skin,” Armstrong said. “This introduces infection to the area.”
What To Do When Bitten
In the event of a person being bitten, Armstrong said that thoroughly washing the wound is usually enough. However, people should always watch the area for any signs of infection.
“Generally, washing the wound site with soap and water is sufficient,” Armstrong said. “Any wound, regardless of the source, should be monitored.”
Don’t Pick Up Snakes
When a snake comes near a home, a general first reaction is to want to move the snake far away. Armstrong said that this is the main reason people are bitten by nonvenomous snakes.
“Most bites occur when people are handling snakes,” he said. “I recommend leaving them alone if they are not venomous.”
Armstrong wrote a line to remind people about picking up snakes; “some snakes bite, but others don’t. It’s a chance you shouldn’t take. So, in the wild don’t pick ‘em up and you won’t make a big mistake.”
As a general rule, Armstrong said that if you are in an area where snakes might be present, closed-toe shoes and long pants are a must.
Find more information about snakes in Alabama in Alabama Extension’s publication, “Identification and Control of Snakes in Alabama.” This covers information and some common myths about about snakes, both venomous and nonvenomous. To download the full publication, visit Alabama Extension online here. For further information, contact your county Extension office.