SNAKE ENCOUNTERS: Understanding and living with 'misunderstood' snakes
State environmental officials are reminding residents that snakes are becoming more active at the same time people are venturing outdoors to enjoy the nice weather, do yard work, or participate in various outdoor activities like hiking.
Snake encounters can be alarming for some people, especially if they do not understand how harmless, yet important these creatures are to the natural world, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
“Snakes are probably some of the most misunderstood animals in the outdoors,” said Rick Jacobson, director of the DEEP Wildlife Division. “There is no need to fear or hate these reptiles. If you leave snakes alone, they will leave you alone.”
Snakes and people
Hundreds of snakes are needlessly killed by people each year because of mistaken identity, fear and misunderstanding.
Very often, when a snake is found near a home, people may panic and even assume that the snake is dangerous or venomous. Few Connecticut residents realize that they are unlikely to encounter a venomous snake around their home.
The two venomous snake species found in Connecticut (timber rattlesnake and northern copperhead) do not have wide distributions. These venomous snakes, along with the other 12 Connecticut snake species, are not aggressive and will only bite if threatened or handled. If left alone, snakes pose no threat to people, DEEP officials said.
If you unexpectedly come across a snake, the snake is likely as startled as you are. There is no reason to kill a snake — instead, you should observe and enjoy it from a distance and allow it to go on its way. All snakes will retreat from humans if given a chance.
May come inside for food
Some snake species, in particular gartersnakes, are often encountered in yards and around outbuildings. Occasionally they will enter homes and outbuildings in search of food.
A snake found in the home can be easily and safely removed. A pair of garden gloves is sufficient protection from gartersnake bites.
The snakes have long teeth for their size; a bite on an unprotected hand is not dangerous but can be painful.
The snake should be picked up carefully to avoid excessive squeezing. Snakes have delicate bodies and are easily injured. Place the snake in a cloth bag and release it in an area not far from the point of capture so the snake will be in familiar territory.
To discourage snakes from entering buildings, make sure all cracks in the foundation are sealed. Basement windows should close tight or be covered with screens, DEEP officials recommended.
Remove hiding places
If you wish to discourage snakes from your yard, remove the places where they can hide. Cut grass short, remove brush and rock piles, and trim shrubs up off the ground.
These methods will discourage snake prey species from the yard as well.
More information about snakes and snake conservation in Connecticut, as well as an identification guide, can be found on the DEEP website at www.ct.gov/deep/wildlife.