Increased rains, increased snakes

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Alando Owens
  • 28th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management technician
In recent weeks, snake sightings have increased throughout various parts of Ellsworth. These sightings, coupled with warm weather, are due to the recent heavy amounts of rainfall pushing the snakes upward from their usual living habitat. The three snakes sighted most often are: the Plains Garter Snake, the bull snake and the Prairie Rattlesnake.

Although residual chemicals are ineffective against snakes, there are other ways to control snake problems.

An effective way to discourage snakes around the home is to make the area unattractive to them. Remove hiding places such as brush, rock piles and foraging areas; also minimize outside food sources. Keeping the grass cut low is another way to deter snakes from inhabiting your yard.

The best way to handle a snake issue is simply avoidance.

Here are a few general guidelines on recognizing the three snakes indigenous to South Dakota and some of their characteristics:

Plains Garter Snake

Adult Plains Garter Snakes range from 16 to 42 inches in length; a pattern of yellow stripes runs lengthwise along their bodies. Although not poisonous, a bite from the garter snake may produce swelling and can cause a burning rash.

Bull Snake

Common colors for the bull snake include yellowish-brown, cream and brown. They usually have black and or brown markings and a light-brown belly. Bull snakes are quite large (some have been reported as reaching as much as nine feet in length). Most bull snakes average around three to five feet.

Although bull snakes are not poisonous, they do have teeth and will bite if provoked. They are sometimes mistaken for rattlesnakes because of their colors and their defense mechanism - shaking their tail in leaves, producing a sound similar to a rattlesnake shaking its rattles. Bull snakes can be aggressive and should not be handled.

Prairie Rattlesnake

The Prairie Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake native to South Dakota. Their color varies from light brown to green, with a yellowish belly. They are recognizable by not only the rattles at the end of their tails, but also by their triangular-shaped head. Adults will range in length from 30 to 40 inches.

Be careful where you put your hands or feet and where you sit when you are outdoors. Prairie Rattlesnakes have a great display of camouflage. Most prairie rattle snakes are normally timid and secretive. If you leave them alone, they will likely do the same. If you come across a Prairie Rattlesnake, maintain a safe distance. Stay at least a body's length away from the snake; a Prairie Rattlesnake can normally strike half their body length.

Although the Prairie Rattlesnake is normally not aggressive, be prepared to retreat if a snake comes toward you. It may only be seeking escape cover, but when frightened, cornered or attacked, prairie rattle snakes will stand their ground and may attempt to strike at or bite an intruder.

If you discover a snake in your yard or garage, keep a safe distance from it, but maintain visual contact. Immediately call the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron Pest Management Shop at (605) 385-2521 for assistance. Trained personnel will isolate the threat by relocating the snake from the immediate area to a non-residential habitat.