Summer months means snake activity in Adams County

Published 1:53 am Sunday, June 13, 2010

NATCHEZ — When Natchez resident Bill Lambert pulls out a gun in his back yard, he’s not exactly pretending to be a sheriff from the Old West.

Unless, of course, the snake in his yard is serving as the outlaw being brought to justice. In that case, Lambert is quick on the draw — and he always wins.

“I’ve always been scared of snakes. I’m more uncomfortable when I feel like there ought to be a snake there but I don’t see one,” Lambert said.

Email newsletter signup

Lambert, who lives in Beau Pré, said he kills approximately 12 snakes a year on average. And now that it’s summer, more of them are bound to be popping up around the area.

“I have a half-acre pond next to my house, and I think I draw more snakes than most because of the pond,” Lambert said.

“I think I’ve killed nine so far this April. Usually about 20 percent of them are water moccasins and cottonmouths. The rest are assorted water, chicken and rat snakes. I’ve never seen a rattlesnake or copperhead on my yard, but I know they kill a lot of rattlesnakes on the golf course.”

Although Lambert’s preferred method of taking care of unwanted snakes is shooting them, experts recommend leaving them alone altogether if you see one.

“Most snakebites in Mississippi are when people are trying to catch, kill, harass or otherwise harm the snake,” said Bryan Fedrick, herpetologist for the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.

“Take two steps back the way you came, turn around, walk away and leave it alone. Even when a snake’s dead, it can still bite. Five percent of bites occur when the snake is decapitated, because the reflexes still work. They can still bite you and (poison) you.”

For Natchez resident Clark Jackson, running into a snake during the summer around the county is a given.

“If you live in Adams County, you have snakes in your yard,” Jackson said.

“They love to lay out in the sun, and you have to watch out for them in flower beds too. You also have to be extra careful if you have children that like to play in the woods.”

David Carter, county director for the Adams County Extension Service, said snakes often take up residence on people’s property because they’re looking for habitat and food.

“If you can eliminate both, you can eliminate the snakes,” Carter said.

“Don’t leave clutter around the house or stuff piled up on the back porch or deck. If that’s there, then it’s possible for snakes to get back there.”

When it comes to what snakes eat, Carter said it’s a little harder to control.

“Snakes eat small animals, and it’s hard to prevent that, but small animals have the same kind of habitat as snakes. So by reducing a lot of clutter, you can reduce a lot of those problems,” Carter said.

Natchez resident Keith Benoist, who has a life interest in snakes, said the main thing to look out for is the snake’s eyes when trying to determine if it’s poisonous.

“Here, all venomous snakes are pit vipers, and they all have an elliptical pupil, or ‘cat eyes.’ All non-poisonous snakes around here have a round pupil,” Benoist said.

“The only venomous snake in Mississippi that has a round pupil is the Eastern Coral Snake, but there’s not a single record of one of those being in Adams County since records were being kept. We do have a record of coral snakes in Franklin County, but the last one was in 1960.”

And it’s likely most Adams County residents have passed by a snake before without knowing it.

“They’re doing their job as a part of the ecology. They’re here to eat, sleep and hide. For every snake you see, there are 100 you don’t see, because they’re subterranean creatures,” Benoist said.