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Beware of Snakes' Summer Hide-Outs
By Crystel Bailey
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippians enjoy telling about close encounters with most wildlife species, but snakes are usually a different story.
Summertime activities place people outdoors during a time when snakes are more active. Awareness of potential snake habitats and cleaning up those areas may be the best bets for avoiding an unwanted encounter.
"Snakes are seen more frequently when mating, in spring, early summer months and then fall," said Dean Stewart, wildlife specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
During the warmer months, activities such as boating, working in the field and moving brush piles tend to place people where snakes are.
"The most effective way to discourage snakes around a home is to make the area unattractive to them. Remove their hiding places, foraging areas and food sources," Stewart said.
Snake hiding places in the warm months include cool, damp, sheltered areas.
"Keep firewood piles stacked away from the house in warmer months, and keep fence rows and edges of wooded areas near the house free of debris, brush and other cover. Also, close all openings larger than 1/4 inch and control rodents, such as mice, that make holes used by snakes," Stewart said.
He also noted that snakes can find their way inside storage sheds, so these need to be closed off at the base by packing soil or building materials such as bricks or sheet metal.
If a snake gets into a house, Stewart suggested sweeping it with a broom into a large bucket, then releasing it at a site as far away from the house as possible.
"It usually serves very little practical purpose to kill the snake. In fact, many snakes provide great benefit to humans by keeping rodent populations low," Stewart said.
Besides keeping snakes away from home, people should know how to prevent contact with snakes in the wild. Stewart gave several tips on how to keep safe.
For instance, do not lift a stone, plank, log, boat or other object where a snake might be hidden by placing hands or fingers under it. Move it first with a stick.
Make noise when walking outside and be sure to keep a lookout for snakes by glancing frequently at the path. Also, look before sitting or squatting down.
In case of contact with a snake, back away from it. Do not handle an injured or dead poisonous snake, and if unsure if the snake is venomous, treat it as if it is.
If bitten by a snake, Linda Patterson, a registered nurse and health education specialist with MSU's Extension Service, advised taking the following steps.
If the snake is still in the area, do not attempt to kill or catch it, unless it poses a danger to the victim or someone else. Remember what it looks like to identify it from pictures later.
"Remove all items that may restrict circulation in the affected extremity, such as watches, bracelets, rings, gloves or shoes," Patterson said. "Immobilize the affected area as much as possible. Attempt to keep the bite at or slightly below the level of the head."
If swelling occurs rapidly, place a 1-inch-wide constricting band about 2 inches above the bite. This is not a tourniquet and should not fit so tightly that a finger cannot easily be slipped under it. Do not place a constricting band on a joint.
Attempt to keep the victim from moving rapidly about while transporting him or her to the nearest emergency medical facility as quickly as possible.
Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink (particularly alcohol). Do not place the affected area in ice, and do not make any cuts nor apply suction to the area. Also, do not attempt to give medications.
For assistance, call the Mississippi Regional Poison Control Center at (601) 354-7660.