How the dry winter is impacting rattlesnakes in the Panhandle - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

How the dry winter is impacting rattlesnakes in the Panhandle

A rattlesnake curled is the striking position; Source: KFDA A rattlesnake curled is the striking position; Source: KFDA
The tail of a rattlesnake shows it loud warning device; Source: CBS The tail of a rattlesnake shows it loud warning device; Source: CBS
Dry vegetation grows alongside wet vegetation in an open field; Source: KFDA Dry vegetation grows alongside wet vegetation in an open field; Source: KFDA
AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) -

Rattlesnake season has already started in the Panhandle, but compared to last year, the number of sightings have decreased.

Walking among the brush in an empty sound, someone could hear the soft ticking of rattlers from rattlesnakes.

"Generally they're on the outskirts of towns," said Texas Game Warden for Texas Parks & Wildlife Shane Lewis. "They're not generally inside the city limits, they don't like the vibrations."

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Between April of 2017 and April of 2018 rattlesnake bites in the Panhandle have decreased roughly 40 percent.

Due to the dry winter, food sources are scarce. The lack of food and other valuable resources could have impacted the breeding process.

"I believe that since this year has been so dry, there's less rodents for them to eat, probably less of the younger snakes are surviving, and older snakes are starving," said Medical Director for the Texas Panhandle Poison Center Thomas Martin. "So I believe we are seeing less bites because of that."

Martin says the drought is not only changing the number of snakes but also how they react and the chemical composition of their venom.

"We know that their venom changes composition over time," said Martin. "It wouldn't be surprising to know that if they were hungrier, or there was a drought, that that might make them have more lethal or more concentrated venom because they may only have shot to get some prey."

If you do get bit, make sure to seek medical attention immediately. Do not touch the wound. Sucking out the poison is just a myth.

"Making an 'X' mark over the bite and trying to suck the venom out, that's not good," said Martin. "You are more likely to infect that."

Increased construction projects in the Panhandle could also lead to snakes being driven out of their homes.

 "As construction progresses, then those snakes are forced, or they're more seen, in those areas," said Lewis. "So we tend to get more calls in those areas as places are being newly constructed or built."

While rattlesnakes are the most commonly seen snake, they are not the only ones to be cautious of.

"We have bull snakes, grass snakes, coachwhips, there's all sorts of species of snakes," said Lewis. "As a general rule, the rattlesnakes grab more attention in the community because it is a viper and people are known to get bit on occasion."

Whenever you encounter an animal like a rattlesnake, the best and safest method is to just leave it alone, do not provoke it or make it aggravated.

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