Getting s-s-serious about snakes

A ribbon snake rests on a tree limb in Hurlburt Field, Fla. There are more than three dozen species of snakes found in this part of Florida, the vast majority being non-venomous, like the ribbon snake. (Courtesy photo)

A ribbon snake rests on a tree limb in Hurlburt Field, Fla. There are more than three dozen species of snakes found in this part of Florida, the vast majority being non-venomous, like the ribbon snake. (Courtesy photo)

Philip Pruitt, chief of the Asset Environmental Flight of 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron, holds up a ribbon snake in Hurlburt Field, Fla, in this recent photo. Ribbon snakes are among the more than three dozen species of snakes that are native to this part of Florida. (Courtesy photo)

Philip Pruitt, chief of the Asset Environmental Flight of 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron, holds up a ribbon snake in Hurlburt Field, Fla, in this recent photo. Ribbon snakes are among the more than three dozen species of snakes that are native to this part of Florida. (Courtesy photo)

An eastern diamondback rattlesnake rests in a barrel in this 2008 photo at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The base pest management shop retrieved the snake and later released it on the Eglin Range. (Courtesy photo)

An eastern diamondback rattlesnake rests in a barrel in this 2008 photo at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The base pest management shop retrieved the snake and later released it on the Eglin Range. (Courtesy photo)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- The Air Force and Hurlburt Field have made a commitment to be good stewards of the environment.

One of the positive outcomes of this decision is that we at Hurlburt Field are able to live in a community that includes numerous and varied natural areas interspersed throughout the base for our enjoyment.

However, with these natural areas come inherent dangers that everyone should be aware of to decrease the potential for accidents. Over the last several weeks, the number of snake encounters on the base has increased.

Snakes are reptiles, which are cold-blooded animals so they are naturally less active during cool weather. Even in spring, activity is restricted somewhat due to evening temperatures that are cool enough to make snakes and other reptiles lethargic.

Recently evening temperatures have stayed above 60 degrees, which can lead to increased snake activity.

It's important to remember though, that snakes are always present in and around Hurlburt Field. They're just not always as visible as they currently are.

The vast majority of snakes encountered will be of the harmless, non-venomous variety.

There are more than three dozen species of snakes found in our area, only four of which are venomous. The four venomous species found on Hurlburt Field are the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake, cottonmouth or water moccasin, and the coral snake.

Chances are if you do encounter a snake, it will be of the non-venomous variety. But all snakes whether venomous or not would rather avoid you if possible and will usually flee if given the opportunity. That being said, snakes are nothing to be overly concerned with as long as you take a few precautions:
  • When working in your yard, avoid putting your hands in low growing vegetation where you cannot see. Keep your eyes open and watch before you step or reach.
  • Always wear shoes when going outdoors, especially if going out at night, even on the patio. As temperatures fall in the evening, snakes will sometimes seek out paved areas such as patios to absorb the warmth they hold and radiate.
  • Maintain yards in a well-manicured fashion and eliminate potential habitat by pruning shrubbery up off the ground, eliminating any brushy areas in your yard, and removing any wood piles or other debris that snakes would find inviting.
Unfortunately, the commercial snake repellants on the market are very limited in their effectiveness and probably provide little more than peace of mind for the homeowner rather than real protection.

If you should encounter a snake in your yard or at your work area and you have a visual on the snake, report it to the Hurlburt Field Pest Management Shop at 884-6173. The Pest Management Shop will relocate the snake to a more appropriate area on a remote part of the base.

If you encounter a snake while visiting the woods or streams nearby, keep your distance and observe if you like but do not try to approach too closely. Under these conditions, snakes pose no threat and should be left alone.

Under no circumstances attempt to capture or relocate a snake yourself. The vast majority of snakebites are the result of inexperienced persons handling snakes or individuals trying to kill snakes.

Most importantly, instruct your children to keep their eyes open and if they see a snake to leave it alone.

All native wildlife, even the venomous reptiles, are an integral part of our ecosystem here in Northwest Florida and are protected on Hurlburt Field.

For more information, contact base environmental at 884-4651.