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Copperhead kill a reminder of springtime snakes

By KBell
May 10, 2012 at 12:10 a.m.

Walter Hoehne measures the copperhead he killed in his garden near Mission Valley. Copperheads are more likely to be seen by humans in the warmer, yet still cool, spring weather.

Walter Hoehne slammed his shovel into the dirt next to a headless snake.

"If this wouldn't have been here, I wouldn't have been able to get him," he said.

Hours earlier, Hoehne, 50, had used the shovel to kill one of the largest copperhead snakes he said he'd seen in the years he's lived near Mission Valley.

This one measured 29 inches, as evidenced by the markings he drew on his front porch when Hoehne measured it.

In recent weeks, he said he and his neighbors have seen nearly a dozen copperheads in their neighborhood on Farm-to-Market Road 237.

A typical Southern copperhead usually reaches between 24 to 26 inches in length, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The snakes usually come out to catch prey during the daylight hours in the early spring and late fall, which could explain why Hoehne said he's been noticing more lately.

In the summer, they prefer the cooler evening hours, according to Parks and Wildlife.

Brent Ortego, a wildlife diversity biologist, said copperheads prefer oakland forest settings, as opposed to open prairies or ranch lands.

Hoehne found his in his garden, where he was quick enough to see it. Usually, he said, the snakes blend in well with their surroundings and are quick to escape human interference.

"It's a weird deal. This is the most we've seen, and the biggest ones," he said. "I'm used to the babies, the 16 to 18 inches."

Biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife said there's no reason the snakes should be more prevalent this year, except that they're more likely to be seen during the spring season.

Ortego advised those who see the pale brown and pinkish creatures to simply leave them alone.

"Avoid it. Walk around it," he said.



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