Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Give dangerous reptiles plenty of room

By the Advocate Editorial Board
July 7, 2014 at 2:07 a.m.

When living in a city or town, it can feel like nature is outside the boundaries of our little piece of civilization. But as Victoria residents were reminded last month, the truth is that our communities and homes are built on what was once a wilderness, and the animals that inhabited those ecosystems don't always recognize the boundaries that people create.

One of the clearest pictures of this was the small alligator that appeared in the Riverside Park duck pond in late June. On June 25, a couple sent to the park by Texas Parks and Wildlife to remove the gator were not able to locate it, but later that day, a fisherman hooked the gator, and another resident helped subdue the reptile, taped its jaws shut and removed it from the park.

The Advocate has not received official confirmation on whether the gator was released, but we are glad it was removed before anyone was hurt. Alligators, even small ones, are dangerous creatures that can move surprisingly fast when agitated. They are known to be in some areas, but occasionally, they show up in unexpected places, such as swimming pools, roadways and more. One Victoria Advocate paper carrier even found an alligator in a family's front yard.

Alligator captures and hunting have become the subjects of popular TV shows in the past few years. Shows such as "Gator Boys" and "Swamp People" make interacting with these powerful reptiles look easy, but these are dangerous creatures that should be respected and given plenty of space. If one comes into an area where it has contact with people, residents should call the Texas Parks and Wildlife department to report it and wait for a trained professional to remove the animal. Even a small alligator can cause serious damage.

Alligators aren't the only dangerous reptiles in Texas. Our state is also home to four different species of venomous snakes, according to the Texas A&M University website. Everyone is familiar with the rattlesnake. In Texas, we have the western diamondback rattlesnake, a kind of pit viper that feeds on rabbits and other small mammals. When it feels threatened, the rattlesnake shakes a rattle on the tip of its tail to warn predators away.

In addition to the rattlesnake, Texas is also home to the copperhead, the water moccasin and the coral snake. Each of these snakes has distinctive markings that make them easily recognizable. Copperheads have broad bands of alternating copper and tan colors and can be found near decaying trees, under rocks, sheet metal, wood piles or other low, covered areas.

Coral snakes have bands of black, red and yellow and look similar to milk snakes, which are not venomous. The way to tell the snakes apart is to look at the order of the colored bands. If the red and yellow bands are touching, it is a coral snake. An old rhyme is often used to help remember this: "Red on yellow kills a fellow. Red on black is a friend of Jack." Coral snakes are usually found underground in burrows or under deep piles of leaves.

Water moccasins, also known as cotton mouths for the white color of the inside of their mouths, are water snakes. When threatened, they flatten their bodies to appear bigger and open their mouths. If you see a snake anywhere near the water, the best idea is to just leave it alone.

Texas is home to some dangerous animals. Thankfully, most of the dangerous reptiles are not aggressive unless cornered. As long as people use common sense and give these creatures plenty of space, everything will be fine. If a snake or alligator intrudes on a resident's home, it can be dealt with safely by calling animal control. Don't take on a venomous snake or alligator on your own.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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