As temperatures rise on the South Plains, public officials and people who study snakes have been seen an increase in snake numbers.
Kevin Rhodes said he’s certified by Texas Parks and Wildlife to remove snakes and helps out with ranchers and property owners who want snakes off their land. He’s said he’s seen “lots” of rattle snakes out and about in every direction from Lubbock– more than he saw last spring.
From what he’s seen, Rhodes said the wet weather conditions last year led to a boom in populations of both venomous and nonvenomous snakes.
Not only is the number of snakes increasing in the Lubbock area, the weather conditions have allowed them to grow in size as well, Rhodes said.
For example, some snakes Rhodes retrieved from near Post, TX in January were abnormally large.
“One of the dens we went to earlier this year had snakes that were born in the fall of last year, and they’ve already gotten to lengths of about 2 feet long which is amazing,” Rhodes said. “Which shows there’s an extended winter period of warm temperatures and an abundance of food items.”
Lou Densmore has seen more of those snakes– and the rodents they eat– frequenting the area around his Lubbock-area home too. Densmore studies reptiles, he is a professor at Texas Tech in the Department of Biological Sciences and teaches a field Herpetology class in Junction, Texas.
“Last year was an exceptionally wet year, lots of baby rodents born, lots of baby snakes survived, and this year we’re seeing the fruit of that,” Densmore said. “It’s been especially prevalent in the last 2 to 3 weeks here because the humidity has been a little bit higher than it normally is here.”
“What we typically see is if its a wet year or preceded by a wet year we’re always gonna see lots of snakes,” he added.
So what should you do if you encounter these snakes on your property?
“If they’re in the city limits of Lubbock and they run into a snake that they’re not familiar with, rather than trying to pick up that snake or kill that snake, it’s better to let Animal Control do that, those animal services are provided for that reason,” Rhodes suggested. “If they live in the country side, it’s better to leave that animal alone unless they want to dispose of it and know how to do that.”
Rhodes explained that snake bites can be both dangerous and expensive to treat, so he recommends keeping a distance from the snakes if possible.
Densmore said that it’s understandable to want to kill a rattlesnake that’s in your back yard, but it has to be done carefully, even a severed snake can still bite you.
Furthermore, he added, killing snakes can remove valuable predators from the ecosystem.
“Especially if you’re out away from where people can be in danger, killing most any snake is a detriment, they are very, very important in most ecosystems they live in, they control rodents,” he explained.
Densmore offered words of caution:
“If it has a rattle you should really stay away from it, if it doesn’t have a rattle it probably shouldn’t be killed.”
The snakes are going to be out this summer, Densmore explained, and the most important thing West Texans can do to protect themselves is to watch where they’re walking, knowing that snakes may be pop up in more places this summer.
“The best way to handle snakes is to just watch them, they are pretty fascinating animals, and most of the time, even a rattlesnake is gonna try to get away,” Densmore said.