“Snakes. Why does there have to be snakes?” Perhaps you’re one of the many who empathizes with Indiana Jones. In fact, ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) tops the list of phobias, right along with public speaking. Fear of wild animals is valid, but what Indie probably didn’t consider is that snakes don’t seek out humans to attack. A bite is most always a defensive reaction. Indiana Jones movies introduce venomous snakes from around the world. In The Woodlands, we have only three. The Southern Copperhead, Western Cottonmouth and Texas Coral Snake.
Let’s get acquainted
Like most snakes, these three species are shy and generally keep out of sight. They travel alone and prefer brush, rocks and woodpiles. Multiple snakes will share a den for winter hibernation, emerging in late February through early March. They are active during the day in spring and fall and at night during the summer to avoid the intense heat.
All snakes are strictly carnivorous. The type of prey varies by the species and may include mice, rats, frogs, birds, squirrels, rabbits, lizards, insects, eggs, snails, scorpions and smaller snakes. Aquatic species, like the cottonmouth, also eat fish, crustaceans and amphibians.
Snakes play an integral role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem by helping keep prey populations in check. For example, controlling the rodent population results in the reduction of common diseases like hantavirus, lymphocytic chorio-meningitis and salmonellosis.
Living with nature
14 of the 17 species of snakes commonly found in The Woodlands are nonvenomous. While a bite from any wild animal is possible and can cause injury, most wildlife is harmless when left alone. If you unexpectedly encounter a cold blooded neighbor, follow these best safety practices.
Preventing snake bites
Most snakes live on or near the ground. Most bites happen around the ankle and about 99% of all bites occur below the knee.
- Wear protective clothing; fangs are sharp but break easily and almost never penetrate leather shoes or boots. Long-sleeved shirts and pants will help further reduce your risk.
- Watch where you step, sit down and put your hands (never blindly into a hole).
- Avoid stepping over a log without first seeing what is on the other side. If you must move a log, use a long stick or garden tool first, to ensure snakes are not near.
- Use a flashlight when moving about at night.
Around the home
- Keep the grass short, shrubs trimmed, and flowerbeds free from debris.
- Limit wood and brush piles and keep them away from the residence.
- Keep storage sheds and garages as neat as possible.
- Treat overturned boats, plant pots, tarps and similar objects as potential shelter for snake
Snake encounters and recommended responses
Removal – who to contact
When removing wildlife from your private property, it is best to call a professional.
- Montgomery County: Woodlands Snake Removal, Nathan Wells: 346-218-0279
- Harris County: Texas Snakes & More, Clint Pustejovsky: 713-934-7668
Keep in mind that living in a densely forested area means that you may encounter snakes at local parks, ponds and along trails. Follow the recommended responses above during an encounter and avoid handling any wildlife. Snakes are a valuable asset to the health of our forests and we don’t want to remove them from their natural home.
Want more information?
- Texas Parks and Wildlife – Snakes Alive
- iNaturalist – A guide to snakes of southeast Texas
- Live Science – Snake Facts
Now that you’ve read a little more about snakes, hopefully you appreciate the importance of having them around. We’re not suggesting you’re cured of your fears but maybe you’ve found a new respect for snakes and you will let them be when you see them. And on the rare occasion that you encounter a pit of asps on your world-wide adventures, go ahead and channel your inner professor of archaeology.