Precautions With Snakes
are important members of the natural world and make a significant contribution
to the control of pests such as rats, insects, and other snakes. Poisonous
snakes, however, are not desirable members of the human habitat. The risk of
a poisonous snakebite is lower than that of being struck by lightening and
can be reduced further by: |
Most poisonous snakes in the United States belong to the pit viper group. The pit viper has pits on its head, vertical pupils, a triangular head, slim neck, and a heavy body with a single row of scales on the underside of the tail. The pit viper group includes the major categories of copperhead and cottonmouth and two major categories of rattlesnake. All pit vipers may vibrate their tail sections rapidly to make noise when threatened.
The cottonmouth and copperhead categories are often referred to as mocassins, but they are two distinct categories within the pit viper group. Note:Click Images For Larger View
There are many varieties of rattlesnakes that have pit viper characteristics and a button on the tail (youngest snakes), plus two to four segments of rattles for each year of age. The size range of rattlesnakes is 15 to 72 inches, with the record size held by a 96-inch Eastern Diamondback.
The five varieties of copperhead snakes have pit viper characteristics and bands or hourglass markings of brown, copper, or red on a tan body. The 20- to 36-inch snakes have regional differences in color and size; the young have a bright-yellow tail tip. An unusually large copperhead was recorded at 56 inches in length.
The semiaquatic cottonmouth also has pit viper characteristics, but the adult has a solid-colored upper body that is olive brown or black, and a lighter underside. Although often difficult to distinguish from the nonpoisonous water snake, a cottonmouth is usually more aggressive. While a water snake will leave rapidly when threatened, the pit viper often raises its head and confronts an enemy with a show of fangs inside a cotton-white mouth. The size of the cottonmouth ranges from 30 to 48 inches, with a record length of 74 inches.
The coral snake is an exception to the other snakes of the United States, because it has round pupils and an elliptical head, but it is quite poisonous. While the pit viper venom reduces the amount of oxygen carried by a victim's red blood cells, a coral snake has venom that rapidly affects the nervous system. The small mouth of the coral snake has trouble grasping and biting the larger human; however, the effect is more deadly than the pit viper once a bite is accomplished!
If You Are Bitten By A Snake
assistance, call the Regional Poison Control Center at (601) 354-7660.
After a flood, storms, or hurricane, snakes are forced into places where they usually are not found. Take the following precautions if you live in an area where poisonous snakes are common.
To get rid of snakes in buildings and to prevent other snakes from entering:
There are no sprays, dusts, or poisons that have legal registration for use around homes or farms to repel or kill snakes.
Low places under houses are likely to trap water, which provides a harborage for water moccasins. Outdoor sheds and barns are also ideal places for snakes to hide. These areas should be drained if possible.
Homeowners returning to areas inundated by floodwaters are likely to encounter infestations of insects, rodents, snakes, and other pests that can cause numerous health problems for humans and livestock.
Rats and other rodents may move into homes and outbuildings to escape floodwaters. Search likely harboring places in your home and farm buildings. Carry a flashlight and approach closets, basements, storage areas, stairwells, bins, and shelves cautiously.
Do not endanger yourself. Guard against rat bites. If you are bitten by a rodent, try to capture or kill it, and take it immediately to a health authority to check for rabies. You may need medical treatment.
Rats that cannot be eliminated by clubbing or trapping, destroy by poisoning. Zinc Phosphide is a rat poison to use if there is no danger of small children or pets contacting them. This material kill rats quickly. The anticoagulant poisons (warfarin, pival, fumarin, and diphacinone) are safer to use around small children and pets, but require at least four days of successive feeding before the rats begin to die. Death of rats continues for two weeks or longer after consuming bait.
After the infestation is controlled, conduct a careful cleanup program. Remove trash piles, and avoid piling up lumber, trash, or damaged furniture or equipment on the ground. Store materials on platforms or shelves 12-18 inches above the ground. Make every effort to deprive the rats of food, food scraps, hiding places, or harborage. Clear outdoor harborages after rats are under control--never before--since rats may be driven into the house for refuge. It's also easier to choose proper places to put bait before cleanup.
Clean up piles of garbage and debris both indoors and outdoors, and cover garbage cans tightly. Store foods in glass or metal containers in cupboards. Set traps and poisons in strategic locations, and maintain them even after you have stopped an infestation. Dispose of dead rodents as you would livestock carcasses.
Use the following preventive measures, and apply pesticides if necessary. Do not overreact to emergency conditions, however.
Note: Use pesticides only in the areas and amounts specified on the labels. Keep them out of the reach of children, pets, and livestock.
Insects multiply rapidly because post-flood conditions provide many favorable breeding sites. Mosquito, fly, and other insect outbreaks can reach alarming rates quickly.
Avoid potential health problems by eliminating breeding spots. Cesspools, cisterns, trash containers, and rain barrels should be covered. Drain standing puddles, marshes, and containers filled with water. Use insecticides to treat standing water and sanitation pits. Dispose of garbage and animal carcasses as recommended. If you use manure as fertilizer, spread it thinly so that it dries quickly.
Repair or replace damaged screens, windows, doors, and vents that allow insects to enter your home and farm buildings.
Use household sprays indoors and apply an insecticide to window screens. In heavily infected areas, use commercial outdoor sprays, and wear protective clothing and insect repellant. An insecticide supplier can recommend chemicals and application procedures.