Zookeepers warn public about venomous snakes to look out for this summer

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Posted at 10:22 AM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 11:35:31-04

LAFAYETTE — It's beginning to feel like summer more and more each day, but with that warmer weather comes the start of snake season here in Louisiana.

"The most common venomous snakes that you will see around here are Cottonmouths and Copperheads," says Erin Fenstermaker, a zookeeper at Zoosiana.

Cottonmouth snakes, which are also known as Water Moccasins, are usually spotted laying in the sun around bodies of water. They have large, black, heavy bodies and are easily identifiable by their white gums shown when they open their mouths when they feel threatened.

Copperhead snakes are a burnt orange color, and tend to hide away under things such as leaves and rocks.

"The way that you can identify those snakes is by a Hershey Kiss mark on the side of their bodies," says Fenstermaker. "That Hershey Kiss mark is very distinctive."

While these snakes are extremely dangerous, not all snakes are venomous or pose a threat to us at all. Some snakes that are commonly seen close to homes and in gardens are completely harmless and only there to feed off of insects.

"In gardens, you will see a lot of those really thin snakes with the stripes down their backs," says Fenstermaker. "Those are Ribbon Snakes or Garter Snakes, and they are non-venomous."

Some non-venomous snakes are there to benefit us, such as the Speckled King Snake which is a dark brown or black snake with white or yellow specks.

"King snakes are really cool," says Fenstermaker. "They will actually eat other snakes, including venomous ones."

Rat Snakes are commonly seen around homes as well and are completely harmless. These snakes are commonly confused with Copperhead Snakes as they have the same color, but not the same distinctive markings.

"They are there most likely because you have rodents around," says Fenstermaker.

If you approach a snake and are unsure whether or not it's venomous, Fenstermaker says the best thing to do it to walk away and call 9-1-1 if you are in danger.

"Don't touch it and don't try to kill it," says Fenstermaker. "That is the number one reason why people get bit, is because they try to move it or touch it."

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