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Know your snakes: Summer heat brings more snake sightings

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 10:18:19-04

JUPITER, Fla. — No matter if you live in the city or rural parts of Palm Beach County, snake season is here.

The warm winter and now hot summer is bringing out more snakes in people’s yards and homes.

It has a lot of people sharing pictures on social media, many unsure of what type of snake they're dealing with.

That's why Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter has been getting inundated calls on snake sightings.

“The snake calls never end around here honestly,” said executive director and animal expert, Amy Light.

She said with the summer heat comes more snakes.

“You got a lot of animals that are on the move, looking for mates,” she said. “Moms that are looking to find food and take care of the babies.”

There are 50 different kinds of snakes in Florida but of those, Kight said only six are venomous.

“And only five are found here in Palm Beach County,” she said. “So most of the snakes you’re going to come into contact with are going to be non-venomous, completely harmless snakes.”

Some characteristics to look for in venomous snakes include a diamond-shaped head and cat-like eye pupils. Non-venomous have round pupils.

Of course, you should never get close enough to a snake to see that closely, but Kight added that some non-venomous snakes can flatten their head and puff out their mouth to appear venomous to ward off predators.

Kight walked us through some of other venomous snakes seen in the area, starting with the Cottonmouth. It has a heavy body and a long tail and is generally dark colored with tones of brown or black. The name comes from the color of the inside of its mouth. It’s also very rare to actually see in the wild.

“They’re very evasive, they don’t want to be seen at all. However, there is another snake called the water snake. could either be a brown water snake or a banded water snake. They look almost identical to the cottonmouth,” said Kight.

The diamondback rattle snake is common. It has thick scales and diamond pattern on it’s body with a rattler at the end. It also has a distinctive diamond shaped head and can grow several feet long. The pygmy rattlesnake is also venomous and is much smaller in size.

The copperhead snake has hour-glass, dumbbell or saddle-bag shaped markings and are copper, orange or pinkish in color. It has the distinct cat-eye pupils, ridged scales and a triangular shaped head.

“You generally don’t find these as far south as Palm Beach County. They do get down into St. Lucie and Martin counties,” said Kight.

The coral snake is red, black and yellow, with the red bands and touching smaller bands of yellow. The snake also has large, solid black rings that wrap the entire body. It’s often confused with the corn snake, which has a similar color but the black coloring does not wrap around the body in the corn snakes.

Think of the popular saying to help you remember, "Red touch black, safe for Jack. Red touches yellow, kills a fellow."

The venomous coral snake is the same type that Irma Torregeroza saw outside her garage.

“I saw the snake right there and he was laying down,” she said, pointing to the driveway.

She saw the snake one day in her Abacoa neighborhood, which is a popular spot for wildlife including snakes.

“So I started researching and I realized that a few people have seen them around the pools or in their yards,” she said.

The king snake and rat snake are non-venomous. King snakes actually eat venomous snakes.

“I always like to tell people if you see a snake and you’re not sure what it is, assume it’s venomous. Give it that respect,” said Kight. “You want to keep your distance, stay back away from them. Once you get in their space like that’s their only way to protect themselves would be obviously to bite.”

If ever see a snake inside the house, don’t panic.

“The best thing is trying to keep it contained to one area. So if it’s in a bedroom or something, close the door and put a towel under it so it’s contained,” said Kight. “If you see it in your yard, you just want to back up and leave it alone.”

Kight also said you should never risk your safety by trying to catch or kill the snake yourself.

“If you’re close enough with say a shovel to hurt that animal, that animal is also close enough to hurt you,” she said.

You can hire an animal removal company or call Busch Wildlife for assistance.

“As with a lot of species, you can hire a removal service to remove that one snake but as long as there’s still what it needs to sustain life, you’re going to have more snakes,” said Kight.

She suggests people should trim their grass and other vegetation that snake can hide in and remove any trash that can attract rodents, which snakes like to eat.

The University of Florida has a helpful guide to identifying Florida's venomous snakes. Click here to learn more.