Environment

Fall in Florida means more encounters with venomous snakes. This isn’t all bad

Venomous snakes are coming out of hiding in Florida, trappers warn, and the situation is simply a part of living in the Sunshine State.

NBC 2 reports that vipers and venomous snake populations, including rattlesnakes and cottonmouth, are thriving in the fall in Southwest Florida. But, really, snakes are everywhere.

That’s because they breed in the spring and by the fall their eggs have hatched and the adolescent snakes are doing what teens tend to do: venture out to check out their surroundings.

But owing to overdevelopment humans and snakes — venomous and otherwise — are sharing common grounds, Southern Wildlife trapper David Griffith told the station.

“Keep an eye on the ground and any tall shrubs near the water’s edge. They’re losing a lot of habitat from overdevelopment so they’re kind of being forced into these areas where they come in contact with humans and get killed,” Griffith said.

The wrangler relocates rattlesnakes and water moccasins and other slithering creatures from Southwest Florida neighborhoods including Sarasota, Charlotte, Captiva, Lee and Collier Counties.

But snakes are all over Florida. Maybe right now in your Coral Gables backyard.

Snakes, which include 44 species of natives, “play an interesting and vital role in Florida’s complex ecology,” according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

They are found in coastal mangroves, freshwater wetlands and dry uplands and in residential areas.

Snakes reduce rodent populations and non-venomous ones sometimes kill the venomous snakes. There are six venomous varieties in Florida: the eastern coral snake, southern copperhead, cottonmouth, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake and the dusky pygmy rattlesnake, according to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The venomous ones, like the rattlesnake, even have a benefit: They consume ticks, the Wildlife Commission said.

What to do to keep safe

Unless you’re a trapper, you probably ought to call in an expert if you feel there’s a venomous snake on your property and let them remove the snake.

If bitten, call 911 right away and get to a hospital.

“What you don’t want to try to do is suck the venom out or use any mechanical tool to get the venom out that can end up spreading it and making it worse,” Southern Wildlife’s Griffith told NBC 2.

Keep the bitten area lower than your heart. This can help keep the venom from traveling to the vital organ, Sunny 106.3 broadcast on Thursday.

See a snake? “Just stand back and observe it,” the Fish and Wildlife Commission said on its website. “Snakes don’t purposefully position themselves to frighten people. They’d much rather avoid encounters and usually will flee.”

Chances are, your encounter will be fleeting.

“Most larger snakes travel in large areas, so one you see in your yard today may be far away tomorrow,” the Fish and Wildlife Commission said.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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