Terry Vandeventer, the self-proclaimed 'snake man,' shows off a coachwhip snake during a presentation earlier this month at the Ferriday branch of the Concordia Parish Library about snakes native to the Miss-Lou region. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Terry Vandeventer, the self-proclaimed 'snake man,' shows off a coachwhip snake during a presentation earlier this month at the Ferriday branch of the Concordia Parish Library about snakes native to the Miss-Lou region. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

Scaly situation: Snakes best handled by professionals, or not at all

Published 12:01am Sunday, July 28, 2013

NATCHEZ — When the fall comes, things can get a little scaly.

Snakes can be a problem for a lot of Natchez residents right now between the 90-degree temperatures and the plentiful forestry.

But the important thing to do is not fret and not panic. St. Catherine’s Creek Wildlife Refuge project leader Bob Strader, the City of Natchez animal control’s Randy Myers and Herpetologist Terry “The Snake Man” Vandeventer all said there are several ways the public can prevent snakes from coming into their yard and home.

“The best thing to do is to keep your grass cut; any wood piles or anything that would harbor prey would attract snakes,” Strader said.

Strader said that snakes come into yards in the hunt for rats, frogs and lizards. But keeping prey away will also keep the snakes away.

Vandeventer holds up a Louisiana pine snake during the presentation. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Vandeventer holds up a Louisiana pine snake during the presentation. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

Myers says another way to keep snakes away is to get a cat. While they aren’t as prolific as animal control, they can be handy in the snake-killing business.

Sometimes a clean yard won’t keep the reptiles from looking for food. When a snake dwells in someone’s yard or home, what then?

First off, Vandeventer said snake repellents do not work.

“There’s no such thing as a snake repellent; all they will do is put your mind at ease,” he said. “Mothballs are something you never ever want to use, because they can cause poisonings among children, and most repellents are made of mothballs.”

Myers said the first thing anyone should do when coming across a snake is identify if its venomous or not.

Venomous snakes are not uncommon. Myers and Strader both testify to witnessing timber rattlesnakes in the area. Other venomous snakes to look out for are southern copperheads and western cottonmouths, better known as water moccasins.

“(Venomous) snakes are heavier bodied; they have triangular-shaped heads and vertical-shaped pupils,” Strader said.

“Good thing is, they don’t climb very well, so it wouldn’t be often you get one in your house if it’s high up.”

Vandeventer said the best thing to do when encountering a snake is to leave it alone.

“The vast majority of snake bites, 85 to 90 percent, are inflicted while a person was trying to kill a snake,” Vandeventer said.

Vandeventer said despite the stereotypes put on snakes, snakes are not aggressive creatures.

“They don’t just attack people, they defend themselves,” he said. “When they see a person, they don’t know what you are. You’re big and scary. A venomous snake will lie very still because their skin is camouflage. We walk by them all the time and don’t know it.”

But if a venomous snake is around children, it must go, he said.

Myers said pointing out the type of snake someone is dealing with can be very important, as people often get snake types confused.

“A lot of people mistake a chicken snake for a rattlesnake,” Myers said.

Strader said if it’s not venomous, getting rid of a snake could be easy.

“(If it’s in your home), you can get a broom and sweep it right out of the house,” Strader said.

Though most venomous snakes won’t strike unless being threatened, all precautions must be taken.

“No matter the size, stay away from it,” Myers said. “A small snake can make you very sick just like a big snake can.”

At that point, calling a professional to capture the snake is the best, and smartest, option.

Myers can be reached at the City of Natchez animal control at 601-442-6452 before 3 p.m., or you can call Natchez Police Department at 601-445-5565 to send someone to take the snake away.