Texas Drought Increases Snake Encounters

September 5, 2011; 9:15 AM ET
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Photo of a Texas Rattlesnake taken by Tom Spinker.

As the Texas drought continues, snakes will be on the move in search of food before hibernation. If the snakes can not get enough food to build their fat stores, it will be hard for them to remain in hibernation throughout the winter months.

Not only will the snakes be in search of food, they will also be attracted to areas where they will find water.

"The drought has dried all of the grass that the rodents normally feed on," said Central Texas snake expert, Jerry Cates. "It's a chain effect, when there are less rodents for the snakes to eat, they will be ranging further and further out from their normal foraging areas."

"It's possible we could see snakes into the winter months as we did after the 2010 drought," said Cates. "We saw snakes out of their normal areas in Round Rock, Texas in early January."

Most species of snake found in Texas are non-venomous. There are some species of venomous snakes that people should be aware of. They are the rattlesnake, Texas coral snake, the cottonmouth and copperheads.

If you should come across a snake, the best thing to do is to slowly move away from it. If you or your pet should get bitten, seek medical treatment immediately.

"Treatments that involve plastic surgery cost between $100,000 and $150,000," Cates said. "Bites that don't involve plastic surgery cost between $10,000 and $75,000 to be treated." Plastic surgery is often needed to treat snake bites from pit vipers. "All pit vipers produce gangrenous injuries."

People can reduce their risk of snake bites by wearing leather shoes when in areas of tall grass and when mowing their lawns. Snakes also like to sun themselves on rocks.

"Since January 1, Austin, Texas had received only 39 percent of their normal rainfall", said AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Edwards. One of the driest areas is Lubbock with only 11 percent of their normal rainfall.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that 81.08 percent of Texas is currently rated as experiencing exceptional drought conditions.

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