There is a snake in my daughter’s bedroom. He seems pretty comfortable and has been there for almost a year, and I don’t expect that he’s going anywhere anytime soon. At 7 years old, my daughter convinced us to buy her a pet snake as an early birthday present. Cinnamon Bun the ball python is a surprisingly great addition to our pet family, but he also represents a good reminder to talk about snake safety tips.
The weather is getting warmer, and most of us are starting to spend more time outside. Even my dogs are hanging out more in the backyard so they can chase lizards as they scurry over our fence. Unfortunately, snakes are also slithering out more frequently, and they’re not as friendly as our beloved Cinnamon Bun.
You see, one of my dogs was recently bit by a rattlesnake in our very own backyard. My husband raced home to meet the snake removal guy while I ugly cried the whole way to the emergency veterinarian. After a dose of antivenin she’s back home and resting, but she’s still in lots of pain and is swollen and puffy.
Encountering snakes in the wild (or in your yard) can be terrifying. Here are a few safety tips to keep you and your family safe this summer.
Talk to your children about snakes.
Kids are naturally curious, but you don’t want them getting anywhere near that snake they just spotted in the yard. This is why you need to talk to your kids about what to do if they see a snake. Having a snake-loving kiddo, I frequently remind both of my kids to never, ever approach a snake in the wild. Sure, it could be a harmless rat snake, but it could also be much worse.
Make sure your children know to quickly leave an area with a snake and to tell an adult right away. Remind them that snakes are wild creatures, which means they are unpredictable and can be dangerous. Drilling snake safety tips into your kids’ heads won’t guarantee that they’ll handle a snake encounter perfectly, but it can certainly help.
If your kids are still curious about snakes, you can always check out a book at the library or take them to a local reptile store. Most people who work at these stores are passionate about reptiles and happy to talk with you. They’re also usually some of the first to warn you about being safe around these interesting but sometimes dangerous creatures.
Know where your closest emergency veterinarian is located.
At first I didn’t even realize the rattlesnake had bit my dog. I initially watched in terror as she went after the rattlesnake coiled underneath the fire pit, but I never heard her yelp or cry. When I finally managed to get her inside I quickly put both of my dogs up while I frantically called a snake removal service. As I waited I realized my dog wasn’t barking, which is usually all she does when she has to go into the bedroom while we have service people in the house. I went to check on her, sure it was just my nerves feeding that sinking feeling in my stomach.
I spotted the bite mark right away. And I panicked. I knew where one of the emergency vets was located, but it was far away, closer to our old house than our new one. I called our vet who rattled off a list of options for us to go to, and then googled to see which one was closest. The distances were only marginally different, and at first I didn’t know where I should go. I know where the closest hospital and emergency room is, but it had never occurred to me that I should know the same for my pets.
Snake safety tips are not limited to humans. Make sure you locate the nearest emergency veterinarian, write down the information, and keep it somewhere safe. Using a magnet to attach it to the fridge is a good idea.
I know it’s hot, but wear long pants and stay on the trail.
Not all the time, but at least on hikes or when going through heavily wooded areas. Wearing boots and long pants can give you a small opportunity to potentially protect yourself from snake bites. You should also do your best to stay on clearly marked trails. While you should always stay on marked trails to avoid getting lost, it can also keep you safe from snakes. Walking in areas where you cannot see anything beneath undergrowth is dangerous and puts you at risk for snake bites.
Block points of entry.
I was certain that our backyard was safe. We have wire mesh fencing across the drains in our cinder block fence and across the metal gate, too. Baffled about where the heck this snake came from, the snake removal expert told my husband some upsetting news — we hadn’t blocked every point of entry. The small gap created by the gate’s hinges is large enough for a snake to slip through.
You can use a piece of fiberglass edging or a door sweep to block this gap, and it shouldn’t affect your gate’s functionality.
Get help immediately.
There are around 50 species of snakes living in the United States. Considering that there are over 3,600 species of snakes in the whole world, we’re not doing so bad. You might even be surprised to learn that many of the snakes in the U.S. are harmless. That probably won’t make you feel better if you encounter a snake in the wild.
If you are bitten you should seek medical treatment right away. Call 911 and never, ever try to suck the poison out of the wound. This is a myth and will not help your situation at all. In fact, it could make things worse. While you wait for help to arrive you should also avoid:
- Applying ice or tying a tourniquet.
- Drinking anything with caffeine.
- Trying to catch the snake.
Doing any of these things can make your situation worse. You could even end up with a second bite if you try to capture the snake, and having the snake on hand is not necessary for treatment. Instead, do the following:
- Remember identifying details (i.e. color, pattern, head shape).
- Take off tight clothing or jewelry — snake bites can cause swelling.
- Keep the area that was bitten either below or at the same level as your heart.
- Cover the bite with clean dressing and avoid flushing it out with water.
Even for snake lovers, encountering a snake (especially a rattlesnake) is a terrifying experience. However, if you remember to follow these important snake safety tips you can hopefully end the encounter without any major issues. Be sure to talk to your children about what to do if they spot a snake, always be aware of your surroundings, and have a safe and healthy summer.