When winter ends and the sun starts to come back out in Austin, so do the snakes.
Springtime in Central Texas is peak snake season, said local snake expert Tim Cole. Although the majority of alerts called into Cole’s Austin Reptile Service are nonvenomous, he said there is a chance Austinites might encounter a western diamondback rattlesnake or other venomous snake in their backyards this spring.
“They’ve gone the winter without eating, our daytime temperatures aren’t too hot, and for a lot of species it’s breeding season,” Cole said. “That’s why we see more in the spring than any other time of year.”
Snake season usually picks up in the early spring and ends when the weather starts to cool down again in the fall. Snake bites are fairly common this time of year, said Albert Gros, chief medical officer for St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.
“Rarely do people pass away from snake bites these days, but there’s probably half a dozen people in the country every year that do,” Gros said. “Things like cardiac arrest and shock can certainly contribute to that.”
Gros said he would not recommend the “old-fashioned” treatments often promoted in snake bite kits, such as tourniquets, cutting on the puncture wounds, sucking out the venom or using ice on the wound.
“The best recommendation of someone who has been bitten by a snake or thinks they’ve been bitten by a snake is to sit down or lie down, try to keep the bitten part of the body lower than the heart, and get themselves to a hospital as soon as possible,” Gros said.
St. David’s South Austin Medical Center is one of the biggest users of antivenin in Central Texas, Gros said. This is primarily because the center draws patients from the surrounding areas.
Hours after responding to his first copperhead call of the year off of Bee Cave Road, Cole explained that most of the incidents he handles occur in rural areas on the edges of the city.
The best way to keep a snake out of your yard, Cole said, is to keep your property clean.
“Don’t let the grass grow long,” Cole said. “Snakes don’t like to be out in the open, they want to feel secure when they’re moving around.”
Although the majority of calls he receives are for nonvenomous snakes, Cole said he usually doesn’t like to remove them because they help keep venomous snakes away and can die if they are moved too far.
“Most of them are benefiting us by protecting homes from rodent damage,” Cole said. “And a lot of them are competing with venomous snakes for food. So if you remove a nonvenomous snake from the area, you may very well be inviting a rattlesnake or copperhead to come over.”