No one needs to tell Ricky Little that it’s copperhead season in Texas.
He said he kills several snakes every summer night. Little said he’s usually armed with a sharp-pointed shovel and a spotlight.
During the four warm-weather summer months in 2011, he killed 67 copperheads, he said. The snakes measured between 14 and 25 inches each.
Weatherford business owner Chuck Songer has a different take on the reptiles, however, though he does acknowledge that this is the time of year when people can see them the most.
“Copperheads are all over the place,” said Songer, adding, “they normally get no bigger than about two feet.”
Songer, who owns Charlee’s House of Reptiles on Santa Fe Drive, said the best thing to do if you see a snake is to leave it alone.
“Don’t mess with snakes,” Songer said. “You leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.”
Copperheads, Texas rat snakes and bull snakes are all around during this time of year, and they feed on vermin. They’re good snakes to have around, Songer said.
“Bull snakes are light brown or yellow with black rings on the tail, which kind of makes them look like a rattlesnake. They’re not — and they are one of the best at taking care of field mice of all sizes. They’re your friend for mice around the home,” he said.
Harmless water snakes, which may look like water moccasins, are also around during the summer, he noted. They will take care of another problem in ponds in the form of dead and/or decaying fish, Songer said.
“Water snakes are very beneficial because they keep the odors down in ponds because of the heat and decaying fish,” he said.
Andy Gluesenkamp, state herpetologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said the slithery creatures are looking for food, cover, water and sometimes a mate.
“The best advice I can give is to have good yard hygiene,” he said. “By yard hygiene I mean keeping lawns mowed, clean any brush piles — anything that would provide shelter for reptiles, amphibians or small animals to hang around in.”
Piles of debris, especially in ditches along roadways, should be viewed with suspicion. “Trash and limbs are a haven for copperheads,” Commissioner Katherine Pinotti said. “We work hard to keep ditches clean and remove dead limbs because of that.”
Gluesenkamp warned that looking for copperheads is an easy way to get bit by the venomous reptile.
“(People normally get bit) on the foot or the hand,” he said. “It’s hard to get bit on the hand when you’re not messing with them.”
A copperhead’s bite is rarely fatal, though.
“For treatment, seek immediate attention,” Gluesenkamp said. “Don’t use tourniquets or whiskey, just go straight to the hospital and people tend to do just fine.”
While some people have claimed that they’ve been chased by snakes, that is a very rare problem, Songer said.
“They’re acting that way because they feel cornered,” Songer said. “Let them by you and that will be it.”