LENORA SEZ – Beauregard Daily News – October 9, 2005
Snakes are a fascinating part of Louisiana’s natural heritage, but can be a source of anxiety and fear. Children are taught not to pick up worms, and when walking along roadsides, not to pick up sticks.
Most of Louisiana’s snakes are harmless and are beneficial to our “balance of nature.” Snakes are not aggressive except when defending themselves. They are valuable as predators of insects and rodents.
Beige, often with a pink or orange tint, with broad, darker brown hour-glass shaped cross bands, the copperhead is considered non-aggressive. The copperhead, lying camouflaged, will remain motionless unless a person happens to step on one. During the fall of the year they are difficult to recognize when squirrel hunting because their color blends with the shades of brown of dry leaves and pine straw that one sees.
Known for its series of wide black and red rings, separated by narrow yellow rings (next to the red), encircling the body, the coral snake is rarely encountered except in the Bundick Creek swamp. Children are taught: “Red and Yellow Kill a Fellow”. The coral snake appears to be rather docile, doesn’t strike but if carelessly handled may bite unexpectedly by chewing. Their venom is neurotoxic and affects the central nervous system which can cause the arrest of involuntary muscle activity that normally controls breathing and heartbeat. The writer has had several encounters with this venomous snake.
Cottonmouth water moccasins, dark tan, brown or nearly black, are common around ponds and pose an unsuspected threat to dogs. Upon provocation, cottonmouths will coil, open their mouths to expose the white lining and shake their tails. They are highly defensive and will not get out of one’s way. Cottonmouths will bite under water.
Venomous snakes are unable to strike a distance more than their body length, even less for large rattlesnakes which are common around Anacoco Creek and the Sabine River.
Snakes are an important component of the ecosystem as predators and feed exclusively on living prey. They will not take poisoned bait. Snake-proofing yards would be difficult and expensive since snakes can burrow and climb. One’s heart begins to race if a door of a closet is opened and one looks six feet up to the top shelf and sees two snake eyes looking down. Fortunately, Louisiana’s venomous snakes rarely climb.
Rumors abound that several soldiers died as a result of snake bite in 1941 while training here during the Louisiana Maneuvers. So the story goes, a snake crawled into the sleeping bag while the soldier slept. Upon waking up and moving, the soldier was bitten by the snake.
One doesn’t know what fear is until gathering eggs from a nest and instead of grabbing eggs a snake is grabbed instead. . It is reported that one deterrent is to place a golf ball in the nest, that when swallowed, can’t be dissolved and probably causes quite a tummy ache for the snake. Chicken snakes are harmless but are a nuisance when they rob the bird’s nest of baby birds.
This writer accepts snakes as a way of life near a swamp. However some horrifying moments have been experienced. The heart goes into high gear when walking under a tree limb and suddenly seeing a six foot long snake sprawled along a limb overhead. Or pull a stringer of fish out of the pond that has a snake swallowing a big bass. And there is nothing more terrifying to hear than a bull frog’s mournful croak for help as it is being swallowed by a snake.
As a precaution the writer takes a quick look under the desk before beginning work on the computer.
Louisiana has six snakes that are venomous. One is the coral snake that emits neurotoxin when it bites its prey. A rat that has been bitten by the coral snake will usually be dead in ten minutes.
The five venomous pit vipers include the copperhead, cottonmouth, diamondback rattlesnake, western pigmy (ground rattler) and the timber rattler. They are called pit vipers because their heat sensing “pit” alerts them to the location of their next meal.
All in all, snakes have a negligible impact on humans and play a vital role in the ecosystems of Louisiana.
My nugget of serious truth: There is nothing so eloquent as a rattlesnake’s tail.