AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. –As cleanup continues, be aware you may encounter snakes and other wildlife while clearing debris. There are six venomous snakes that call Alabama home, the copperhead, cottonmouth, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake and the most venomous snake native to the United States, the Eastern coral snake.
Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said that because of the storms, snakes may be found in places they normally wouldn’t be.
“Like people, snakes have been displaced from their normal “place of residence,” and are seeking food and shelter wherever they can find it,” Armstrong said. “Their wanderings may put them in areas where humans are attempting to clean up the devastation.”
The first basic rule of snakebite prevention is to use your eyes. Don’t put your hands and feet in places that you have not first looked.
Bence Carter, an Alabama Extension regional agent of forestry and wildlife, said debris tends to attract things that snakes eat.
“Removing debris from around your house or property will reduce potential interactions with snakes,” Carter said. “Debris will attract rodents, lizards and insects, which are all food sources for snakes.”
As always, wearing protective clothing and shoes will greatly reduce your chance of injury from snake bites.
“With the amount of broken glass and exposed nails that are present, it only makes sense to wear gloves and protective shoes while cleaning up,” Armstrong said. “Both gloves and shoes will help prevent a lot of snake encounters from becoming unpleasant.”
What to Do When Bitten
If bitten by a snake, the first thing to do is remain calm.
“Do not panic,” said Carter. “If you’re not positively sure of the species, take pictures from a safe distance and then seek medical help immediately.”
In some snake bites cases, swelling of the area occurs. As a precaution, remove watches, jewelry and clothing from the bite area in case of swelling. If someone identifies the snake as non-venomous, be sure to clean the bite thoroughly to limit potential for infection.
Alabama Extension has many publications and articles about snakes that live in Alabama. Visit www.aces.edu for more information on venomous and nonvenomous snakes.