Snake time has arrived in East Texas, as Caldwell Zoo officials found out this past week.
Caldwell Zoo Reptile Supervisor William Garvin said he caught two water moccasins on zoo property Tuesday, and they were not escapees.
Garvin said he routinely catches snakes around the zoo and moves them to another part of the property so visitors will not encounter them.
“We have a lot of undeveloped property in Tyler,” he said. “There are neighborhoods where there are wooded areas and you might find all kinds of wildlife, including the venomous snakes that inhabit this region.”
Gary Calkins, Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife biologist, said a cold winter delayed the annual spring snake emergence.
And one does not need to be in a rural area to encounter one.
Garvin said four venomous snakes live in East Texas: the rattlesnake, copperhead, water moccasin and coral snake.
The rattlesnakes that live in East Texas include the canebrake, or timber, and the pygmy.
“The two rattlesnakes are pretty much in a specific area, and that is around river and creek bottom areas, while the rest of the snakes can be found anywhere in the area,” Garvin said this past week as he handled an adult mail water moccasin, or cottonmouth.
Garvin said cottonmouths are always around water and can be found in back yards.
The most common venomous snake in East Texas is the copperhead. Coral snakes, whose venom is more potent than other snakes, are rarely seen and will not bite unless provoked.
And that’s generally the case with all snakes, Garvin said.
According to the Texas Department of Health, there are about 7,000 snake bites in the United States every year, but nearly half of all bites are “dry bites,” meaning no venom is released.
On average two people die each year in Texas as a result of a snake bite, according to the site.
Calkins said snake bites would be reduced simply by people giving them space and respect.
“Most people get bit, because they are playing with them,” he said.
Garvin and Calkins said copperhead bites are the most common in the area.
“Anytime you are bit by a poisonous snake, you should seek medical attention,” he said. “With the treatments we have available today, there are very few fatal snake bites. Some bites, however, can cause cellular deterioration and can leave scarring and that is why seeking treatment is a necessity.”
Garvin said a home can be snake-proofed by keeping the yard manicured and making sure no rodents or other prey are on your property and attracting snakes.
“Snakes play an important role in the ecosystem, and they are all needed to keep things in balance,” he said.
For more information on venomous snakes in East Texas visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/kids/wild_things/wildlife/snakes.phtml.