Snakes seek out refuge from the heat
By Robin Scott
The hot months of summer and early fall lend themselves to snake sightings. Central Dispatch also receives numerous calls for help in getting a wandering snake out of a house or business. Most people have learned to tolerate sharing the outdoors with the many different types of snakes found in the panhandle, but sharing one’s home or office is flatly unacceptable.
David Jones, owner of The Serpent’s Lair, a lawn and landscaping service, has first-hand knowledge of just what it takes to remove the pesky intruder from indoors. Jones is also one of Dalhart’s volunteer firemen, whose expertise of snakes keeps him busy rounding them up when calls come in.
On Monday, Jones was asked to capture a snake from a business whose employees were less than thrilled that the slithering creature sought refuge from the summer heat. Jones noted, “When I get to a home or business the snake has likely already moved quite a distance from where it was first spotted. They are very frightened by people and will move off quickly until they feel the threat is gone. They will wait for a bit then move again, so that by the time I find them they may be a couple of hundred yards from where they were first seen.”
The trespasser on Monday turned out to be a Mexican checkered garter snake. While handling the snake, Jones stated, “He’s about three years old and harmless to people. The only way he would bite me is if I were really aggravating him or trying to squeeze him.” Garter snakes are the most common reptile in North America, and come in many subspecies. Garter snakes tend to feast on smaller creatures that they can overpower. They have no venomous fangs in the front of their mouth. Jones noted, “They have fangs in the rear of their jaws, but they do not have a groove running down the length of the teeth that would allow them to inject venom. Basically, they have to chew their prey and venom gets injected that way. They eat their prey alive.”
Joe Hockaday, Animal Control Officer with the Dalhart Police Department, stated on Monday that this time a year is a very common time to see snakes getting into homes. He noted, “They are getting into a cool place and we start receiving calls from people about them as soon as the temperatures rise.” At times, Hockaday is out on a call and unable to respond to a “snake roundup.” When that happens he states, “We usually call the fire department and see if one of their guys can take the call.”
Jones also noted that although there are some products on the market that claim to rid a home of snakes, “There is really no way to get rid of them.” He provided a few tips; however, that will aid in taking away the lure to the snake. He stated, “Keep weeds and grass cut, and be sure that things like sheet metal left in a garage or storage area are not on the ground at all. Clear away piles of things, anything that a snake might hide in. They are looking for safety as well as easy access.” Another tip to consider is that garter snakes aren’t hunting people or the cat or dog. They are more afraid of people than the reverse. When a snake finds itself in an unwelcome environment, it will find its way out again. A snake does not want to be in a place of danger and will quickly move out of an area that it feels threatened in.
Once captured, a snake may be placed in a bag such as a pillowcase, securely tied. Jones stated he takes the snakes he removes from unwanted locations to the Kiowa grasslands or to a reserve in Amarillo. He commented, “Snakes do have a valuable purpose in the world, and I don’t kill them. I take them to a safe place for them and release them.” He also noted that there are dangerous snakes in the area and that removing them is not only desirable, but also necessary. He stated, “I don’t mind being asked to come get a snake. The Bull snakes can be difficult because they will go right up a tree and I have to follow. I’d rather come get them and release them than have them menacing a family or get killed for being in the wrong place.”
Anyone discovering a snake in an unwanted place may contact the Animal Control Officer through Central Dispatch at 244-5544 or David Jones at 249.0808.