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State expert: Rattlers more active in summer

By Sara Sneath
June 11, 2014 at 1:11 a.m.
Updated June 12, 2014 at 1:12 a.m.

A diamondback rattlesnake coils at the Dallas Museum of Natural History's "Fangs" exhibit in Dallas on Nov. 8, 1997.

Snakes' and humans' mutual love for warm weather results in more snake bites during the summer months.

The two species of rattlesnakes in the Crossroads - the western diamondback and the timber rattlesnake - are in peak activity season, said Andy Gluesenkamp, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's state herpetologist.

Both species have hemotoxic venom, which kills prey and acts as a sort of meat tenderizer to help the snakes digest, Gluesenkamp said.

"So they can eat a bigger meal than they would be able to eat otherwise," Gluesenkamp said. "They can digest it faster."

If bitten by a snake, he said, seek medical treatment immediately.

"Don't put a tourniquet or ice on it. There's no need for whiskey," Gluesenkamp said. "The best treatment for a rattlesnake bite is a cellphone."

While they may cause severe discomfort, snake bites are rarely fatal. On average, there are one to two cases of fatal snake bites per year in Texas, he said.

"Dogs, insects and even lightning kill more people in Texas than rattlesnakes do," Gluesenkamp said.

It's important to be vigilant for snakes during the summer months.

"Don't put any part of your body where you don't see it," Gluesenkamp said. "Step on logs, not over them."

A person who encounters a snake should stop, assess the situation and find the safest way to exit calmly.

"There's typically no need to run. A snake cannot strike farther than half its body length," he said.



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