The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Snakes on a Porch

Courtesy of Mira Suarsana
The cottonmouth that lay at the base of the stairs of Suarsana’s University Park apartment on March 25.

The cottonmouth that lay at the base of the stairs of Suarsana’s University Park apartment on March 25. (Courtesy of Mira Suarsana)

By the time she would have noticed the snake it would have been too late. The thick, fat, approximately 5-foot-long, venomous cottonmouth snake lay curled up at the foot of the stairs on the porch leading into Mira Suarsana’s University Park apartment. Its back protruded as wide as an average sized thigh in one part, where its most recent snack lay digesting.

“Don’t go through the front door there’s a huge snake,” read a text message from Suarsana’s neighbor on March 25 at 6:25 p.m.

“We didn’t sleep here that night,” Suarsana said of herself and her two roommates.

After her neighbor called the police, according to Suarsana, animal patrol officers came to collect the reptile, but they were too late. The snake had already moved on, most likely to continue roaming the neighborhood.

“We had people coming here looking for the snake,” Suarsana said. “People just wanted to find it.”

Suarsana’s story is not uncommon, as recent snake sightings have spiked in the past few weeks due to hotter temperatures. There have been nine snakebites in the North Texas area so far this year. It’s official: it’s snake season in Dallas.

“Most snakes breed in the spring so snakes are out looking for mates,” Jon Campbell, a professor at The University of Texas at Arlington and a leading snake expert, said.

People living around the small lakes that dot North Texas neighborhoods have complained about snakes in their yards. Officials at the Unity Church of Dallas on Forest Lane reported seeing a large snake on their grounds, which boarders a small, man-made lake.

“It sure seems like the population must be going up,” Mike Yudizky, Public Health Education Manager at the North Texas Poison Center, said.

According to the University of North Texas Amphibian and Reptile

Diversity Research Center, there are 39 different types of snakes in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area. Of the 39, seven are venomous.

“The most common snake we see is the copperhead,” Yudizky said. “Copperhead counts have really gone up.”

Experts say the increase is due to hot weather. Snakes hide in the cool shadows of shade trees and shrubs. Cutting back shrubs and trees may help lessen the likelihood of inviting snakes into your backyard.

“The unseasonably warm weather has brought them out and we have had abundant rain, which is also good at promoting snake activity,” Campbell said.

Copperhead snakes enjoy sunning themselves, too, and are often found sprawled lazily across a driveway or sidewalk. Especially now, the creatures are starting to warm up and are meandering out of their winter hiding spots.

The copperhead, like the cottonmouth, is a venomous snake and, if bitten, can cause the victim to react. However, according to Yudizky, many times a snake will not envenomate its victim. In fact, nearly 25 percent of the time they will give a dry bite.

“They bite if they feel threatened,” Yudisky said.

If one should encounter a copperhead, or any other snake, simply moving away slowly is the best option. Keep in mind, the majority of snakes in north Texas are not venomous.

“I’ve only seen a couple of garden snakes about a foot long,” Arnie McFalls, a Dallas resident, said.

Though McFalls has been lucky, the possibility of encountering a more threatening snake is still there. In addition to the cottonmouth and copperhead, other venomous snakes in north Texas include: Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Timber Rattlesnake, Massasagua, Pigmy Rattlesnake, and Texas Coral Snake.

If bitten, victims of snake bites may feel dizzy, experience blurred vision, fainting, fever, increased salivation, muscle contractions, nausea and vomiting, swelling in the bite area, pain, fang marks, and weakness. There are many possible symptoms and they vary. Once bitten, victims may contact the Texas Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or call 9-1-1.

“There is an anti-venom,” Yudisky said. “It does not work with a coral snake.”

The coral snake venom is what is known as a neurotoxin. The other venomous snakes produce a hemotoxin.

“They do have a different anti-venom, but they’re about out of it,” Yudisky said in regards to the coral snake antivenom. “That could be a problem if they don’t come up with something else.”

Many parents are concerned due to recent reports of snakes wrapped around trees in Dallas area parks. Others have concerns for their dogs that roam in park grasses where snakes lay camouflage with the earth.

“Don’t give them places to hide,” Yudisky suggests.

Snakes like to coil up in holes and hidden coves. Leave your yard open and mow the grass to a shorter trim so that snakes are more visible if present.

Though snakes usually tend to hide in inconspicuous places the slithering creatures have been making very public appearances. Parks, yards, and sidewalks are not off limits to the amphibians and this season the reported increase in sightings leaves no place to hide even from pets.

“Many vets have a pet-grade antivenom that can be used to neutralize venom if your dog is bitten,” Campbell said. “But time is important and you need to get to the vet as quickly as you can.”

If you really want to avoid snakes this season, Yudisky says, there is something you can do: “Have an outdoor cat. They don’t like cats at all.”


More to Discover