BY SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News
Sharing the Four Points community with snakes is easier for some than others, but regardless of how you feel about snakes, learning how to live with them is important.
Local snake enthusiasts say there are things you can do to prevent snakes from coming around your house. They also say most snake bite incidents are avoidable.
Bob Woche, a Steiner resident who does snake removal, stands up for snakes because, “Nobody’s really defending snakes. They are so important to our ecosystem and that’s the main thing.”
Todd LaPittus, also known as the Steiner Snake Guy, has seen firsthand that encounters with snakes need never be fatal for humans or pets. As someone who loves animals but especially reptiles, LaPittus has spent countless hours not just removing snakes from people’s yards but also actively seeking out snakes in order to learn more about them.
“People don’t know how important a role those animals play in our ecosystem,” explained LaPittus. Besides birds and frogs, snakes eat rats and mice and provide essential pest control. For those who worry the danger snakes represent is not worth the service they provide, LaPittus further reminds locals that, “every single snake we have here is non-aggressive. If given the opportunity, a snake will take off every time.”
Woche shares a similar message with those who think snakes are dangerous and should be killed regardless.
“Snakes just get a bad rap.” Woche said. “Look, I’ve killed rattlesnakes before. A friend of mine, their dog was bit and I didn’t have any kind of tools with me. And I killed it. That was the only thing I could have done in that situation.”
But most of the time, an encounter with a snake will be fleeting. Snakes are averse to humans and most sightings will be of snakes just passing through. A snake that stays will only do so if cornered and will only approach a human or animal in the path of its escape route, he said.
LaPittus assures locals that, “100 percent of snake bites are in self-defense.”
Dogs are especially curious and will go nose-to-nose with a snake without realizing the potential danger. Both LaPittus and Woche encourage dog owners to invest in snake aversion training, which teaches dogs to stay away from snakes.
A rattlesnake vaccine is also available for dogs. It has limited effectiveness and cannot prevent death, but it can lessen the physical response to a rattlesnake bite and buy time for an owner rushing their dog to the vet. It is recommended during active snake season from spring to fall and takes three to four weeks to reach maximum efficacy.
LaPittus and Woche both encourage local residents to let snakes leave and to only kill them when necessary for safety.
“Those sticky traps are so inhumane,” Woche said. He is referring to recent coverage where homeowners have caught snakes on sticky traps. And a snake caught in a sticky trap, whether venomous or non, is nearly impossible to remove, clean and release back into the wild.
Instead, he said, “There’s simple common sense precautions you can take. If you see a snake, one, stop. Two, look behind you and make sure there’s no others. And three, back away.”
Woche can be reached at 512-627-6261 and will remove snakes free of charge if he is available.
LaPittus has a website, www.steinersnakeguy.com, which is a wealth of information about snakes. His local snake updates can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/steinersnakeguy.
Can you snake proof your home?
Woche and LaPittus agree that there is no such thing as snake proofing. They suggest, however, some simple Dos and Don’ts to limit the number of snakes on your property and to minimize surprise encounters.
DON’T store pet food or bird seed in your garage, it will attract rodents, which will attract snakes.
DON’T leave piles of debris in your yard. Snakes seek out places to escape the elements.
DON’T leave your garage open and unattended, or leave places for snakes to hide inside your garage, especially near the door sensors.
DO look first before reaching into dark corners or shrubs.
DO educate your kids. Tell them if they see a snake to come find an adult.
DO get aversion training for your dogs.
DO educate yourself and your family about the varieties of snakes that live in the Four Points area. There are only four varieties of venomous snakes here: Broadbanded Copperhead, Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Western Cottonmouth and Texas Coral Snake. Familiarize yourself with them.
DO buy a copy of A Field Guide to Texas Snakes.