Experts give advice on how to react next time you encounter a snake

Best move is to simply walk away and return later
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 5:28 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Snakes are scary for most people and it easy to overreact with fear, but experts say that the best reaction is to simply walk away. Drew Ricketts is an extension wildlife specialist at Kansas State University.

“If you come across a snake and you’re scared of snakes really the best thing to do is to really just go the other way,” said Ricketts. “Leave that snake alone. Give it time to leave which the typically do. Then you both get to go about your daily activities and neither you or the snake is harmed.”

Most people who wind up being bitten by a snake usually are because they picked it up.

“More than 50% of people bitten by venomous snakes were actually bitten because they were handling the snakes,” said Ricketts. “Most of our snake species, unless you surprise them or step really close to a snake, they are not going to strike at you most of the time. If you are not fooling with the snake they typically are not going to strike at us.”

Snake encounters with people go up in the warmer months simply because both are now in the outdoors.

“We do have more encounters between people and snakes,” said Dennis Dinwiddie, Education and Conservation Director at the Topeka Zoo, “because snakes come out of hibernation at about the same time that lawn mowers and weed whackers and gardens and things like that on our land does, so as the snakes are coming out of hibernation, people are getting out too where they’re more likely to see snakes.”

You should also remember that a snake is a free pest control service working for you keeping the local rodent populations down.

“They’re actually working free of charge for you,” said Dinwiddie. “They are keeping your home, your land, your neighborhood a little bit more free of rodents than what it would be if they weren’t there so when you see that snake in your area you should actually appreciate the fact that it is very beneficial to have it there so you don’t want to over react and do anything to harm that animal.”

So the next time you come across a snake and you don’t want anything to do with it, simply walk away and return to the area if you need to a few minutes later. So how can you manage your property to make snakes a little more uncomfortable? Some of the following may be useful:

  • Cut tall grass away from home
  • Remove piles of brush
  • Remove stacks of metal siding
  • Seal cracks and gaps in your homes siding to keep snakes outside

Kansas is home to 38 different snakes and in Northeast Kansas just 3 venomous snakes call this area home. There are some things to keep an eye open for when trying to determine if a snake is venomous or not. Here are some tips for that;

  • There are 3 venomous snakes in Northeast Kansas. Find pictures of what they look like and get familiar with their look.
  • Venomous snakes tend to have an arrowhead shaped head because of venom glands.
  • The venomous snakes of Kansas are all Pit Vipers and have a small “pit” between their nose and eye. You have to get close to see this one though…
  • Lastly, venomous snakes have an elliptical shaped eye while non-venomous snakes typically have a round eye.

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