Local residents advised to steer clear of snakes

Jordan Gogo | Daily Press

Oliver Atkins, 4, is shy to pet a snake held by Madalyn Rogers, Sequoyah State Park assistant naturalist, at the park's Three Forks Nature Center. Many snakes serve a purpose, and if not poisonous, they should be left to go on their way, as they kill rodents and poisonous snakes.

During the summertime, snakes are more active than ever, and the poisonous ones can be deadly to humans.

Since snakes are cold-blooded animals, they may try to seek shelter from the sun in houses, barns or other residential areas near people, putting an unwary bypasser at risk to be bitten.

The most dangerous snakes in the U.S. are pit vipers, venomous snakes identifiable by their thick bodies, fat heads and slit-shaped pupils. In Oklahoma, the most common species include copperheads, cottonmouths (also known as water moccasins) and rattlesnakes.

While these snakes are dangerous, most species people encounter are non-venomous and harmless.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, snakes are one of the most persecuted animals in the world. More than twice as many people in the U.S. are killed annually by bees, wasps and scorpions than by snakes. Additionally, they are among the only animals in the country that help control the rodent population.

However, if a snake is found in a residence, instead of trying to figure out what kind it is, the best option is to stay away.

"Snakes get really aggressive if they feel threatened," said Carl Wallace, Oklahoma State University Extension educator and county director. "The more movement around them, the more scared they get. It's best to stay back because they would rather go the other way themselves."

Wallace advises area residents to be on the lookout for snakes hiding in shaded areas, as most bites occur when people step on them or get too close without seeing them.

"Black snakes, garden snakes and the like eat rats and are beneficial to us, so just leave them alone," said Wallace. "If you don't know what you're dealing with, just avoid them and call animal control."

Wildlife X Team is a full-service wildlife control company that serves Tahlequah and the surrounding area. They do not service domestic animal calls for removing dogs, cats or coyotes.

"We receive calls 24/7," said Jason Culver, Wildlife X Team owner. "If you find a snake in your house, we can come take care of it and search the rest of your property to make sure there aren't any more. If snakes are getting into your home through a hole or some other opening, we can seal that up, too."

To keep snakes away from homes, Cherokee County Pest Control recommends manicuring lawns, as short grass allows hawks and other predatory birds to easily see and prey on snakes. Moth balls are also used around property lines to repel snakes.

"On my personal property, I don't kill king snakes," said Tyler Nipper, Cherokee Pest Control service technician. "They actually help us by eating copperheads and mice."

If bitten, USDA officials say to stay calm, immobilize the affected area, and call medical dispatch via 911 or transport safely to the nearest medical facility immediately.

According to their Snake Safety guide: "Frenetic, high-speed driving places the victim at greater risk of an accident and increased heart rate. If the doctor is more than 30 minutes away, keep the bite below the heart, and then try to get to the medical facility as quickly as possible."

Do not make incisions over the bite wound, restrict blood flow, ice the wound or suck the poison out by mouth. Poison can enter the bloodstream through cuts or sores and might be swallowed.

If you find a snake in your home, do not approach it. Call Wildlife X Team at 918-316-2455.

Learn more

For more information on snake safety, visit USDA's guide at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5393596.pdf.