Biologists report seeing fewer snakes this summer

Published 1:53 am Thursday, July 6, 2017

The rise in temperatures usually brings out slithering serpents, but two local biologists have reported seeing fewer this season.

Alabama is home to some 50 snake species and the majority can be found in Covington County.

Local biologists have said the most frequently encountered are the black racer; the rat snake; the hognose snake; various water snakes; the copperhead; cottonmouth; and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes.

Venomous snakes in Alabama include copperheads, cottonmouth, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, timber rattlesnakes, pygmy rattlesnakes and coral snakes.

Local herpetologist Jimmy Stiles said they are seeing fewer snakes this summer.

Local biologist Mark Bailey echoed the observation.

“Snake action has slowed down now that we’re in the heat of summer,” he said. “Copperheads are perhaps more active at night right now, though. They feed on emerging cicadas this time of year. I carry a light when outside after dark, especially near deciduous trees. The cicadas emerge from the ground where they feed on the roots.”

Both Stiles and Bailey have previously reported to the Star-News that more copperheads are in Covington County, thanks to the disappearance of the eastern kingsnake.

While copperhead bites are most common, deaths from copperheads are almost unheard of.

Bites from venomous snakes can be deadly if not treated quickly.

Symptoms include blurred vision, dizziness, fever, excessive sweating, fainting, rapid pulse, skin discoloration, swelling at the site of the bite, pain at the site of bite, low blood pressure, numbness, nausea and vomiting, breathing difficulty and thirst.

The department of wildlife and fisheries offers this advice if you find yourself in a situation where you or someone you are with has been bitten by a venomous snake, take these steps to ensure you survive and make it to a hospital for the appropriate treatment:

  • Keep calm. Restrict movement and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.
  • Remove any rings or restricting items from the affected area due to swelling.
  • Create a loose splint to help restrict movement of the area.
  • Clean the wound but don’t flush with water.
  • Wrap wound with compression bandages. Go about 4 inches above the wound, wrapping as you would a sprained ankle.
  • Seek medical attention immediately.

Below is a list of things you should not do when bitten:

  • Do not allow for over exertion.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Do not apply a cold compress to a snake bite.
  • Do not cut into the bite

with a knife or razor.

  • Do not try to suck out the venom by mouth.