Monday, January 5, 2009

70-degree weather has rattlesnakes crawling out to sun themselves along Treasure Coast

Janet Begley TC
6:47 AM EST, January 5, 2009

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- In South Florida, they're a sure sign of 70-degree temperatures. But for most Treasure Coast residents, the sight of a rattlesnake is enough to send them running for cover.

"They're around a lot at this time of year," said Bruce Dangerfield, Vero Beach's Animal Control officer and Indian River County's resident snake expert. Dangerfield has been out on two rattlesnake calls in the past two weeks; one in Roseland and another in Vero Lake Estates.

"When it gets to be about 70 degrees, rattlesnakes crawl out of the bushes, wanting to sun themselves," said Dangerfield. "I guess they're just trying to warm up a little."

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Web site notes that only six of Florida's 44 snake species are venomous. Most Florida snakes are harmless and beneficial and remove extra rodent populations. Even the venomous species are not particularly dangerous, unless stepped on or otherwise provoked.

While rattlesnakes are venomous, they're not nearly the threat their reputation would suggest. Nationwide, there are fewer than a dozen deaths from snake bites annually, and Dangerfield said a person has a better chance of being bitten by a dog than a rattlesnake.

Even though actual problems with rattlesnakes are quite low, Dangerfield warned about being complacent. He said the snake he captured on 134th Street in Roseland recently crawled through a dog door onto a screened-in porch. The homeowner was alerted to the 4 1/2 foot diamondback rattlesnake by his two basset hounds.

In the Vero Lake Estates incident, a 91st Avenue resident noticed the rattlesnake crawl out from under his pickup and called police. Dangerfield turned both snakes over to Reptile World in St. Cloud, where their venom will be extracted for medical research.

With the increased development in Indian River County, rattlesnake sightings could become more prevalent, Dangerfield said.


Some bites, such as those inflicted when snakes are accidentally stepped on or encountered in wilderness settings, are nearly impossible to prevent. But experts say a few precautions can lower the risk of being bitten:
•Leave snakes alone. Many people are bitten because they try to kill a snake or get a closer look at it.
•Stay out of tall grass unless you wear thick leather boots and remain on hiking paths as much as possible.
•Keep hands and feet out of areas you can't see. Don't pick up rocks or firewood unless you are out of a snake's striking distance.
•Be cautious and alert when climbing rocks.

•Wash the bite with soap and water.
•Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
•Get medical help.
•The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission maintains a 24-hour wildlife alert at (888) 404-FWCC (3922) or (888) 404-3922 for more information.
•For local snake sightings, call the Indian River County Sheriff's Office at (772) 978-6240 or the Vero Beach Police Department's Animal Control officer at (772) 978-4600.

American Red Cross

Photo by Juan Aguero (juanKa)
Loop Road,Florida
Camera Canon 40D, Lens 300mm L IS

1 comment:

Barry said...

I've used a few snakes in my books. My third book, yet to be published, is called Python without Passports and covers the python problem in the everglades. I try to educate along with entertain through my books so this info will be helpful.

I write about fish and wildlife and the absurdities of life. If you have an interest in humor and mysteries, you may enjoy my book. Please take a look.