Hunters need to show caution


It may be a while before everything is back to normal after this year's odd weather in Texas. That includes the state's wildlife.

Swollen creeks, rivers and lakes caused a lot of wildlife relocation statewide. Biologists believe the loss of wildlife will be minimal because animals are weather-wise, knowing to move when they need to whether it is because of rains this year or drought and wildfire just a few years ago.

Among the animals displaced were snakes, something hunters heading out for dove season or early deer hunting should take note of in coming months if not for the pain to the body, then the pain to the pocketbook.

No one knows for sure how many people are actually treated for snakebite, venomous or otherwide, in Texas annually, but there are reports of one or two deaths each year, according to Dr. Andy Gluesenkamp, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department herpetologist.

For those bitten who survive, treatment for rattlesnake bites reportedly runs anywhere from about $20,000 at the minimum up into the six-figure range.

Gluesenkamp said snakes, depending on species, sex and habitat, typically have a small home range, which can explain why they are found year after year in the same places.

This year, however, some floated downstream to new locales while others moved in search of dry land or wetlands with food.

"Places like flooded pastures create great breeding sites for frogs and feeding sites for frog hunters like snakes," Gluesenkamp said.

The biologist added that snakes thrive in conditions such as this year's.

"As opposed to the extremely hot and dry weather we have experienced in recent past years, wet springs and summers generally have a positive impact on snake populations, but recruitment may not increase until the following year," he said.

When it comes to rattlesnakes Gluesenkamp said size does not matter because they are venomous at birth.

With another 50 days until the opening of the state's first hunting season, dove season on Sept. 1, Gluesenkamp expects range conditions and the snakes will be back to normal. This means hunters need to be aware, and need to be careful using a retriever early in the season.

"I expect thing to return to normal. Hunters and others should always maintain situational awareness with respect to venomous snakes and other potential hazards in the field," he explained.

Options for dogs are rattlesnake avoidance classes, giving them rattlesnake vaccine that appears to lessen the impact of a bite or leave the dog home until cooler weather.

The best suggestion for hunters is common sense. Don't walk through tall grass. Walk around rock piles and logs instead of stepping over them. If you see a snake, leave it alone. Snakes are just as active in the fall as they are in the spring.

"The most important thing after being aware of your surroundings is to not pick fights with snakes. A large portion of venomous snakes bites are the result of Man vs. Snake encounters. In the field, snakes can usually be avoided and are generally happy to beat a hasty retreat," Gluesenkamp said.


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