Summer is a time of heightened activity for snakes, which can cause issues if people don’t behave properly around the reptiles.
People usually understand safety measures when around snakes, Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Scientist Kasey Whiteman said. Problems usually arise because someone isn’t respecting a snake’s space.
“They’ve tried to handle them,” he said. “They’ve tried to pick them up, or they’ve tried to get close enough to the snake, and the snake feels threatened and so, therefore it will defend itself. And so, that’s a lot of where we have snakebite issues.”
There are around 20 types of snakes in Northwest Missouri, including three venomous varieties. The area’s venomous snakes are Prairie Massasauga Rattlesnakes, Timber Rattlesnakes, and Copperheads.
While they can be dangerous, all three tend to isolate themselves, Whiteman said.
“They’re not going to be out and about where people are most of the time,” he said. “But they do find themselves sunning on rocky places, sides of roads to warm up in the morning. And then they’re generally trying to hide, like under leaf litter in the case of Copperheads, or under logs in the case of rattlesnakes.”
When approaching an obstacle like a log or large rock, it’s important to step on the obstacle first, so it’s easier to see what’s on the other side, Whiteman said.
“If you step down on an animal that’s laying on the other side of it that you didn’t see, you might get (bitten) just because the animal thinks that you’re trying to eat it,” he said.
Wearing boots while walking through the woods is another way to decrease potential risks, Whiteman said.
Varieties found near houses tend to be garter snakes or rat snakes. They gravitate toward specific traits of a home or property, Whiteman said.
“People have random woodpiles or junk piles out,” he said. “(Those) are pretty good spots for animals, not even snakes but just other animals in general, to hide out in.”
Some snakes even will show warning signs when they feel threatened. Several species flatten their heads to appear venomous as a way to scare off predators, Whiteman said.