Friday, July 26, 2013

Be Snake Safe!

By Theresa Badurek, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension

Coral Snake: venomous (photo

Gardeners spend a lot of time outdoors, which can bring you face to face with wildlife sometimes. The rabbits and squirrels stealing your veggies and tearing up your flower garden may not scare you, but many folks feel less warm and fuzzy about snakes. Did you know that Florida is home to 44 species of native snakes? The good news is that only 6 of them are venomous, which means your chance of being bitten by a venomous snake is very low. Even though you are not likely to get bitten by a venomous snake, it is important to learn how to get long with snakes in the landscape. After all, snakes help to control rodent populations, and we all can appreciate that!

Getting along with snakes is easy- the first step is to learn to identify Florida's 6 venomous snakes, and some common non-venomous snakes. Click here for snake identification information from the University of Florida.  Once you learn to identify some of our snakes you can rest easier when you see the non-venomous visitors in your landscape.

Southern Black Racer: non-venomous (photo

The next step is to prevent snake bites when you working outside. The following is information from the Centers for Disease Control on snake bite prevention (

Preventing Snake Bites

• Do not try to handle any snake.

• Stay away from tall grass and piles of leaves when possible.

• Avoid climbing on rocks or piles of wood where a snake may be hiding.

• Be aware that snakes tend to be active at night and in warm weather.

• Wear boots and long pants when working outdoors.

• Wear leather gloves when handling brush and debris.

And finally, if you have the unfortunate experience of being bitten by a snake, you will want to learn a little bit about first aid in that situation. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control on snake bite first aid (

First Aid

• Seek medical attention as soon as possible (dial 911 or call local Emergency Medical Services.)

• Try to remember the color and shape of the snake, which can help with treatment of the snake bite.

• Keep still and calm. This can slow down the spread of venom.

• Inform your supervisor.

• Apply first aid if you cannot get to the hospital right away.

o Lay or sit down with the bite below the level of the heart.

o Wash the bite with soap and water.

o Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.

Do NOT do any of the following:

• Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it.

• Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten, seek immediate medical attention.

• Do not apply a tourniquet.

• Do not slash the wound with a knife.

• Do not suck out the venom.

• Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.

• Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.

• Do not drink caffeinated beverages.


Be safe out there!