What snakes are native to Texas
Tarantulas, snakes and scorpions
Even if there are seldom really dangerous animal encounters when hiking in the southwest, you should still know the most important things about these animals and, above all, how to behave in the event of an encounter. The most common encounters are snakes. There are also various species of scorpion, tarantulas and poisonous spiders. The best protection from these animals is provided by high-necked, sturdy hiking shoes and long trousers. In addition, you should never reach into thick bushes or crevices with your bare hand.
The most common venomous snakes in the southwest of the USA are the rattlesnakes, which are represented in countless subspecies, the copperhead (Texas) and the striking black, yellow and red striped coral snake (southern Arizona and New Mexico). The Coral Snake looks similar to the non-toxic King Snake, but differs from it in the arrangement of the colored bands. The Coral Snake has a yellow band to the right and left of the red band, the King Snake a black band to the right and left of the red band.
The rattlesnakes also include the Sidewinder, which lives in the desert areas. It owes its name to its unusual sideways meandering mode of locomotion, with which it glides over the hot sand at lightning speed.
The harmless gopher snakes often look very similar to the rattlesnakes in terms of color and drawing. You can also imitate the behavior of the rattlesnakes. The most important distinguishing feature are the horn valves at the tail end, which only have rattlesnakes and with which they generate the characteristic rattling noise in case of danger. This rattle is typical of rattlesnakes and is very nice to see and hear in this video. When you know it, it is easier to avoid the danger in good time.
When are snakes active?
Usually rattlesnakes end their hibernation in March or April when the average daytime temperatures are consistently above 15 degrees Celsius. They are most active when the outside temperature is between 25 and 30 degrees, i.e. most of the day in spring and autumn as well as in the early morning and late evening, and occasionally at night in the summer months. On the other hand, if the temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celsius, a few minutes in the blazing sun are enough to kill a rattlesnake. Therefore you hardly ever see them during the day in midsummer.
In order to avoid serious incidents with poisonous snakes from the outset, one should always observe certain safety rules. Since most snakes avoid humans on their own when they approach and they register this approach primarily by means of the ground vibration, one should always stand firmly when walking. Many snakebites occur in the dark or at dusk, for example when collecting firewood. So always take a flashlight with you in the dark and use it to carefully illuminate the path. When camping you should keep the tent opening closed at night (at least the mosquito net) and you should never put your shoes in front of the tent, but rather in it.
In the event of an unexpected encounter with a snake, it is important to always keep a respectful distance and to stand still so that it can withdraw safely. Under no circumstances should one additionally annoy or irritate poisonous snakes, because as soon as they feel threatened, they attack and bite.
Behavior with snake bites
Many people still have misconceptions about snake bites and the correct treatment of such bite wounds. Cutting open, vacuuming or tying the wound is completely useless, if not dangerous. The snake kits, which can still be bought in the USA, are also useless. The only effective antidote is the corresponding antiserum (antivenom), which is only available in hospitals and may only be administered by medical specialists, as the treatment is also not entirely harmless and can trigger allergic reactions. The antiserum must be administered no later than 4 hours after the bite.
The first signs of a poisonous snakebite (after approx. 30 minutes) are moderate pain around the bite wound, two punctiform reddening of the skin through the two fangs with slight swelling of the skin or bruising, often combined with swelling of the lymph nodes. In the further course, depending on the type of snake, there is an increased pulse, breathing problems, weakness, dizziness, headache, visual disturbances, paralysis, thirst, nausea, vomiting and cramps up to unconsciousness.
Here are the recommendations for what to do after a snakebite
- Keep calm, not all snakebites actually inject poison (dry bites)
- Carefully clean the bite site, if possible with soap and water or with a disinfectant wipe
- Avoid moving the part of the body in question and hold it lower than the heart
- In the event of swelling, remove all restrictive clothing and jewelry around the bite site
- If possible, circle the bite site with a pen and note the time
- Note the snake's appearance and size, or take a cell phone photo from a safe distance, as different species of snake require different antiserum
- Bring the person affected to a clinic as quickly as possible or call for help via the central emergency number 911
- Is it necessary to walk, to walk slowly but steadily and to take short breaks again and again?
Even with snakebites from non-poisonous snakes, you should always go to a hospital for proper wound care, as allergic reactions, infections of the wound or even tissue decomposition (necrosis) can occur.
Incidentally, of the 7,000 to 8,000 snake bites that occur annually across the United States, only about 5-7 are fatal, that's no more than 0.1 percent. With a little mindfulness, however, dangerous encounters and snake bites can be avoided.
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